SNAPSHOTS ON CORONA

Paola about the situation in Colombia

3. How are you currently perceiving the situation in your country?

The current situation in Colombia and throughout Latin America is without a doubt critical. At least in our country, decision-makers took drastic measures after the first cases became known. In my region, a mandatory contact ban and a curfew was issued in mid-March. Only banks, hospitals or retailers of essential products, e.g. Food, beverages or pharmaceuticals did not have to close their shops. At the moment we are only allowed to leave the house for a few hours once a week and only to do important things. In many cities and towns, only one family member is allowed out per week. When exactly everyone is allowed out of the house depends on the last digit on the identity card number - a very important number for Colombian citizens. This system is known as “pico y cédula” and works pretty well as Colombians already use a similar system in transportation. Violations of the curfew are sanctioned with a fine of around 350 euros. I have never seen the streets of the capital so lonely as in the last few weeks.

Both politically and economically, Colombia is in a complete state of emergency. The price of oil and coal is at rock bottom which hits the heart of the Colombian economy. The country has one of the most traditional textile and fashion industries on the continent and is today a fashion center in Latin America. More than half a million jobs and more than 6,000 companies belong to this branch, including our small company Ferotex, which is characterized by innovative products and services. Nevertheless, this industry is in a bind due to the current emergency. Due to the inflation of the Colombian peso for example, the cost of raw materials that come from abroad and are necessary for the production of textiles in Colombia has skyrocketed. In addition, the demand for textile products has collapsed both nationally and internationally. This has caused that even large companies have had to shut down production or close their doors - at least temporarily. However, there is no alternative to reduce the number of infections and to not overwhelm the healthcare system in this exceptional situation. Even if we fully support the measures to protect health, we ask ourselves how long we will have to hold out in this situation. Without the opportunity to generate sales, many companies in our industry will not be able to cover running costs such as salaries, rents or loans. A few weeks can be decisive here. And the existence of a large number of families in Colombia depends on it, not least mine. In a country like Colombia, which has had to wait for peace for a long time, the current situation brings with it great challenges. Even if we have already gained experience with the Zika and Chikungunya viruses in the past, the new type of corona virus has turned the lives of millions of Colombians upside down.

 

Translated from Spanish

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