URUGUAY. Montevideo. While the majority of South America is struggling to keep its head above water in the first wave of Covid-19, Uruguay is already returning to business as usual. The nation has begun to reopen while managing to keep its total Coronavirus cases at 885, with only 25 related fatalities. Compared to the numbers in other Latin American countries, this is nothing short of astonishing.
In a Transcontinental Times interview, Congressman Rodrigo Blas shared his thoughts on what helped his country succeed against the pandemic. “There were two key things that kept our cases low. First, we had to trust our own people. We were not harsh with the quarantine, but only because they understood the responsibility they must undertake. They had to follow the sanitary protocols we put in place.” The congressman stated while explaining their government´s reasoning for not implementing a strict lockdown. “The other important factor was we paid close attention to what was working in other countries. The Coronavirus arrived late to South America and we had time to see what methods were working elsewhere.”
Another local source was consulted to confirm that Uruguay did not, in fact, have a mandatory lockdown in place for residents under 60 years of age. A peculiar comparison can be seen with Sweden and its similar, liberal approach to quarantine measures. However, the difference is Uruguay´s infection rate is far lower and for the moment, under control.
When asked how their government handled the testing shortage that crippled the response time of many countries in the early days of the pandemic, his response was unexpected, “In the beginning, we only had one hundred tests available. So we relied on our scientists and labs here to create more tests before it became a big problem. This allowed us to test more of our population and quarantine the people who actually had the virus.”
These comments highlight what has become a controversial tactic in controlling the pandemic: Widespread testing in order to isolate the infected. Though when confronted with the differences between Uruguay and countries that haven´t invested in this stratagem, it´s obvious which technique is superior.
The numbers speak for themselves.
Turning to the topic of reopening the country, Señor Blas spoke candidly, “Things will continue to reopen step by step, but we also won´t hesitate to close down again if our cases suddenly spike. We will be monitoring things carefully because the health of our people is what´s most important.”
Señor Blas also elucidated the government´s concern over their borders since Uruguay shares a border with Brazil and Argentina. Brazil is second only to the United States in the number of Covid-19 cases, topping out at over 1 million. Consequently, concerns over a potential rise in cases within border towns have made both vigilance and tight control a necessity.
When it came to the subject of opening their borders in the future, Señor Blas was direct, “I want to be clear that our borders were never closed to citizens of Uruguay who needed to return home. Our citizens can always come home”, he paused before adding, “Though when it comes to tourism, we have no official date for reopening our borders.”