CENTRAL AMERICA & CARIBBEAN
Various governments in the region have stepped up their efforts to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bahamas announced a partial “economic” reopening in certain areas of the country, while Jamaica has once again extended the national curfew, this time through May 5. The Salvadoran Executive branch vetoed a legislative decree allowing the opening of sea and air borders to enable citizens abroad to be repatriated, while Panama passed a bill exempting businesses in the country from paying rent. Below is a detailed account of these events:
Prime Minister Hubert Minnis has partially “unlocked” the economy in some islands making up the Bahamas. Household goods, hardware stores and the construction industry may now resume their activities. However, he reaffirmed that air and maritime borders are to remain closed.
Minnis explained that the “plan is to gradually reopen the economy based on the data collected by health officials and their professional advice.” He also said that “the pace at which the economy reopens will also depend on citizens’ cooperation and discipline regarding health guidelines.”
The Executive vetoed Decree 621 obliging President Nayib Bukele to establish mechanisms to repatriate Salvadorans abroad. The decree established that maritime and air borders should be opened to allow people to return but this was ruled out by Bukele.
The Legislative Assembly must now consider this veto and choose whether to insist on it, modify its content or discard it. However, it is likely that the struggle between the Executive and Legislative regarding citizen repatriation will continue in the coming weeks and eventually force President Bukele to take further action on this matter.
The Ministry of Health (MINSA) today issued a decree announcing that commercial establishments and companies will continue to be closed for the time being, as established in Decree 500, until the State of National Emergency is lifted. It also clarifies that the essential activities listed in Decree 507 are still exempted from closure. Finally, it states that MINSA can order companies and activities not covered by this regulation to re-open by means of a resolution. The decree is already in force.
For its part, the National Assembly of Panama passed a bill that suspends for 120 days all evictions of private real estate destined to commercial establishments and industrial activities. The bill was introduced by Congresswoman Kayra Harding (Partido Revolucionario Democrático – ruling party) and provides a 24-month extension for debtors to pay the accumulated debt once the State of Emergency is lifted.
Lawmakers are trying to ensure that commercial establishments across the country can operate, thus alleviating the financial burden on small and medium-sized entrepreneurs. The measure is to be enacted by the Executive branch in the upcoming days.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness extended the national curfew through May 6. The restriction applies from 6 pm to 6 am the following day. Supermarkets must close at 5 pm. In addition, citizens must wear a mask in public spaces. The Executive branch could extend the curfew again if it deemed necessary to tackle COVID-19.