Uruguay announced it will regulate the constitutional right to assembly when a sanitary emergency, lockdown access to the country from 21 December to 10 January, limit the number of passengers in long range transport, and have government staff take their annual vacation and those remaining, unless essential personnel, will work from their homes.
The main measures of a larger package were announced on Wednesday evening at a media conference by president Luis Lacalle Pou and his two Executive technical secretaries, following meetings with the ministerial cabinet and with the group of scientific advisors, GACH, given the spike of coronavirus cases, which are threatening the impeccable management of the global pandemic by Uruguay
President Lacalle Pou started by thanking the group of advisor scientists, the overworked health and sanitary staff, and the Uruguayan people that have appealed to freedom with responsibility, which has enabled to keep an open and working economy, which has meant that the school year was not lost, and social, cultural, sports and leisure activities, following strict sanitary protocols, were able to continue.
But there was also a special mention for the many anonymous Uruguayans who helped their elders and the needy to overcome the pandemic, as well as the many more who lost their jobs or are under unemployment insurance, because of the economic slowdown.
The nine-month record shows Uruguay managed to contain the so called first Covid-19 wave, at least until last month, but since then the second wave has proved to be more challenging given the start of the austral summer and expectations of a soon to arrive vaccine.
Thus the government decided to send a bill to Congress to better define the terms of Article 38, the constitutional right of assembly, given extraordinary health conditions, which needs a special legislative majority for approval as well as the extent of terms such as 'agglomeration', with the purpose of containing parties and reunions.
Likewise the access restriction even for returning Uruguayans and residents for end of the year vacations will extend from 21 December to 10 January, with the strong recommendation that Christmas and New Year family festivities be limited to a maximum of ten people bubbles. Access exceptions refer to international freight transport and to those who already have booked tickets.
Further regulations including sanctions and/or fines for not using face masks will be left to local governments to implement. Gymnasiums can continue to operate in open spaces, for a limited time and limited teams, with no dressing rooms, while bars, restaurants, pubs will have to respect a midnight curfew.
Lacalle Pou also revealed that the government has ongoing talks with different labs for acquiring Covid 19 vaccines, besides having joined the global mechanism COVAX sponsored by the WHO for less rich countries to access the inoculation process.
I think we can say we are now in another phase of the pandemic, which means it will begin to end when we have the vaccines, but this president is after the best vaccine and to make it available in the shortest time possible, Lacalle Pou pledged. He did not discard flying overseas to ensure the purchase, since so far negotiations have been moderately positive.
The president said he was also concerned with the human resources who are responsible for the intensive care units and respirators. Obviously they are tired, over worked, and although we have sufficient beds and capacity, we need to train and capacitate extra professionals and personnel. The standing staff needs to rest and recover, they have amply earned it
This president and this government do not support or intend to establish a mandatory confinement. The stay at home is worn out and we appeal to the responsibility of each Uruguayan to do what he/she best considers, and if you stay at home, better, but I repeat it is not mandatory. However local governments will be entitled to fine those who do not wear face masks.
It is summer and vacation time, so enjoy, but with responsible freedom, keep social distance, avoid agglomerations, underlined the president.
Long range passenger transport capacity will be cut by 50%, from 21 December to 10 January, and government will give companies financial support. Shopping malls and stores will be persuaded to extend their working hours during the next three weeks to reduce the density of shoppers and to comply with the mandatory social distancing.