Uruguay shows its stability during the COVID-19 crisis

One month after the first positive case, the country reflects the stability of its daily life in the fight against the pandemic.
Publication date: 16/04/2020

On Monday 13 April, Uruguay completed its first month of health emergency due to COVID-19. However, thanks to its remarkable tranquility, the responsibility of its population and the containment measures, the country is far from being in chaos. 

On March 13, Uruguayan President Luis LacallePou, who had been in office for less than two weeks, announced the first four cases of the new coronavirus. That day, the government declared public health emergency: all public activities and face-to-face classes were suspended and the population was urged to stay home.

On Monday, April 13, just after the end of an atypical Tourism Week (Easter), some activities such as the construction sector resumed under important security measures.

According to the last balance offered on Sunday 12, Uruguay has 512 positive cases out of the 8,774 conducted tests.

Voluntary isolation

The Uruguayan government bet on the goodwill of its population to achieve isolation measures. Since mid-March, Uruguay has had its borders closed with the only exception for the people living in cities bordering Brazil.

However, this measure does not prevent Uruguay from making efforts to bring its compatriots stranded abroad and to collaborate in the repatriation of foreigners to their countries of origin.

About 2,000 Uruguayans returned through humanitarian flights coordinated by the Foreign Ministry, while some 1,000 foreigners have returned to their countries thanks to Uruguay's government efforts.

One of the highlights was the evacuation of 112 Australian and New Zealand cruise ship passengers from the Greg Mortimer. A large number of its occupants were affected by COVID-19, and all were repatriated on a flight to Melbourne.

Stable health system

COVID-19 saturated health systems in several parts of the world. Despite this concern, Uruguayan health authorities assure that the system is prepared and is not in danger of collapsing.

Uruguay has some 900 beds of ICU (intensive care). According to President LacallePou at a press conference, the country would have to reach 8,700 cases to saturate the country's health care capacity.

The Ministry of Public Health (MSP) has adapted the Spanish Hospital to serve as the referral center for treating positive cases of COVID-19.

The economy

Although the future is uncertain, the government has taken some steps to alleviate a possible economic crisis that could come after the health emergency is over.

In order to avoid layoffs, the government has provided facilities for sending workers to unemployment insurance and has also postponed the payment of contributions for small and medium-sized enterprises.

Public and private workers over 65 years old - who are part of the population at risk - are being subsidized by the government so that they can stay at home.

For homeless people over 65, who are estimated to be around 300, the Ministry of Social Development has set up a number of temporary shelters to provide 24-hour accommodation.

Lacalle also decreed a 20% reduction in salaries for public officials (including his monthly income and their ministers') and a 10% reduction for public employees who earn more than $80,000 pesos in hand (about USD 1,800) for a period of two months.

Only one month has passed since the first cases were reported, but Uruguay seems to have reached a plateau in the infection curve. The country is managing to reflect its stability in the daily lives of its people and in the fight against the pandemic.

However, the arrival of the cold Uruguayan winter, which may favor possible respiratory diseases, makes the authorities insist on the need for prevention. 

(With information from EFE)