COVID-19 in Peru and Its Impact

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SEATTLE, Washington — Like many countries around the world, Peru has been hit hard by the coronavirus. As of May 7, 2020, Peru has the second-highest amount of COVID-19 cases in South America behind Brazil. There are 51,000 confirmed cases and 1,444 deaths, even after the country was in lockdown for more than 50 days. COVID-19 in Peru has caused a lack of medical supplies, resulting in medical supplies having to be reused. Hospitals have run out of oxygen, which has led to a black market of oxygen cylinders with prices above $1,000.

COVID-19 in Lima and Iquitos, Peru

The capital city of Lima has had the most cases of COVID-19 in Peru. The city of Iquitos has also been especially hard-hit. Hospitals and crematoriums are overflowing. As a result, many people are dying and patients are forced to be seated outside the hospital in rocking chairs or in makeshift hospitals on football fields. Before COVID-19, Iquitos was already on the tail end of a dengue fever outbreak, coupled with a bout of leptospirosis. COVID-19 has exacerbated the medical problems in the city.

The city also faces a particularly unique problem of accessibility to medical supplies as it is the largest city in the world to be inaccessible by road. Peru’s Minister of Health Víctor Zamora has said that the country will airlift medical supplies from Lima to Iquitos and will also build two new oxygen tanks in the city. This will produce more than 800 cylinders of oxygen a day.

Reopening Plans for Peru

In terms of economics in Peru, the government announced an “economic stimulus package worth 90 billion soles ($26.41 billion),” which is close to 12% of Peru’s GDP, to support citizens and the vital mining sector. The government also recently approved new proposals to deal with COVID-19 in Peru. Phase one, from mid-May 2020 through the end of the month, saw a gradual reopening of some industries such as mining, construction, agriculture, e-commerce and business support firms. Restaurants also opened for delivery and pick up.

Phase two this June saw the reopening of paper and printing industries, underground mining and restaurants at limited capacities, among other industries. In July 2020, during Phase three, all mining, construction and sanitation projects will reopen. Many tourism industries will be reopened, such as flights to and from the country and entertainment centers. Phase four in August 2020 will allow all industries to reopen and tourism to return to “normal.”

Medical supplies will continue to be a pressing issue, but government orders like those to build new oxygen plants will make a difference. With more businesses reopening soon and lockdown ceasing, economics in Peru may slowly improve. However, if the number of cases has not improved, the government may have to rethink reopening the economy.

Emily Joy Oomen
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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