On April 10 the Government of Colombia issued Decree 531 extending the quarantine period until April 27. The measure restricts most economic activities, establishing exceptions for some sectors, specifically financial services, food and medicines sales, the media, courier and delivery services and the pharmaceuticals industry. The Executive also published Decree 558 that includes exemptions to employer contributions to social security during the COVID-19 emergency. To finance these measures, Colombia has requested the International Monetary Fund to issue it with a USD 11 billion dollar credit. The organism will be evaluating this request in the next few days.
Regarding the extension of the quarantine, the Executive has explained that its objective is to “guarantee the life and health of Colombians”. All economic activities will be suspended except for 35 so-called essential sectors, including:
- Acquisition of essential goods: food, beverages, medicines, medical devices, hygiene, cleaning and basic consumer goods
- Movement to places where banking, financial and payment operator services take place.
- Establishments and commercial premises selling medicines, pharmaceuticals, supplies, equipment and technological health devices.
- The pharmaceutical production chain, as well as any health technology.
- Postal, courier, radio, television, press and media communications and distribution services.
The decree establishes that in-person purchases and the delivery of basic necessities and food must take place between 6 am and 8 pm until midnight every day until April 26. The measure covers sales activities in food markets, wholesale and retail supermarkets. as well as online sales for the home delivery of products from restaurants and take-aways, and in-house restaurant services to guests staying at hotel facilities.
Among the measures announced by the Executive in order to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 throughout the country, is the suspension of social security contributions paid by employers for their workers, issued by Decree 558. Another measures contemplated are the State covering the payment of wages of small and medium-sized companies with public funds for a period of up to three months. They also announced that credit will be expanded to allow banks to “make loans to companies and independent workers.”
The Executive is looking to finance these measures by renewing the flexible credit line for USD 11 billion that Colombia has with the IMF. “The International Monetary Fund is currently studying our request to access USD 11 billion of what is known as the liquidity facility,” explained Minister Alberto Carrasquilla in a video. “The government is convinced that this (the pandemic) is a storm, a torrential, fast-flowing river. A bridge has collapsed, so we have to build a provisional bridge, but we are going to do whatever it takes to get to the other side,” he added.