How Uruguay tamed the virus

on the brink

An excellent summary, posted in LinkedIn by Beatrice Rangel.

A dear friend who spent her life at the British Foreign Office once told me, "I have learned to respect and love boring countries. Because they home free and democratic societies."

Think of Switzerland; Sweden; New Zealand, Uruguay and Singapore. They seldom make headlines but they are a cradle to peaceful and happy people.

These thoughts come to mind when panning over the Latin American leadership's public policy deployment in these times of pandemic. Only one nation seems to have struck the right balance between containing the virus and protecting individual freedom.

And that country of course is Uruguay. The recently inaugurated President Luis Lacalle Pou correctly decided to treat his citizens like well educated adults and refrained from banning any economic, educational or intellectual activity.

He did take to the microphones to let his people know how serious the health threat was and how important it was to take every possible precaution including wearing masks all the time, washing hands and suspending social gatherings.

He further supported universal testing and following of infected people and their circle of social exchanges over their past three weeks. This allowed health authorities to establish potential contagion maps and alert infected but asymptomatic people to get treatment. As a result, Uruguay kept 80% of its economy working while the number of infected people was about 800 people with 25 deaths in a nation of 3.5 million inhabitants.

But the country also prepared itself from the ensuing worldwide recession that will certainly affect export markets by reducing by 20% public expenditures different from payrolls.

The quality of Uruguay's leadership and the outstanding results of its pandemic control policies drove the Fundación Libertad chaired by Mario Vargas Llosa to issue a communique promoting the regionwide adoption of Uruguay's approach to combating covid19. In particular Fundación Libertad emphasized the contrast between public policies in Uruguay and those adopted by Argentina, which issued home arrest orders to its citizens, increased expenditures and killed economic activity.

In a nutshell Argentina created the conditions to develop an economic Tsunami after covid 19 is contained. And this will certainly make headlines. Uruguay on the contrary will most probably carry on unnoticed but its citizens are way happier than those of Argentina.


I may add, Lacalle Pou reduced by 20% all government salaries above US$1,800 per month. The savings were used to set up a fund to fight the virus.

Pierre Smith

While I also spend a lot of time in the wonderland in which we could have avoided this whole thing with a few common sense actions, let's get real.

Argentina is a giant country, the second in South America, and something like the 30th in the world. There's no way that Argentina could have adopted Uruguayan-style measures. In the provinces, possibly yes. Mendoza, whatever. But in the cities? It would be like Brasil. People simply would not have obeyed after a while.

Also, "Switzerland; Sweden; New Zealand, Uruguay and Singapore" . . . these are not all the same.

Switzerland and New Zealand are basically islands. Singapore is essentially an Asian police state. Sweden has one of the world's highest death rates.

And Uruguay is . . . Uruguay. There's a way that country works differently from all other countries. I think New Zealand is a good comparison: very rural, almost totally agricultural-based export economy, very different from their neighbors aside from one very big one, used to very high prices, probably more.

No way though that Argentina could have followed Uruguay's example.


Let's hope Uruguay can keep it up, but it is way too early to declare any country has successfully controlled the virus. It is going to roll out over two to three years. We are not even at the end of the beginning yet. In the last two hours Australia's imagined success to date has come back to earth: 35 suburbs in Melbourne put back into lockdown for the next month in an attempt to stem the new outbreak.

on the brink

In my view, an important difference between the two countries is that Uruguayans respect their laws and institutions, while many Argentines see them as obstacles to be overcome.

Both may be right.


Perhaps a point of comparison is Australia. Huge and Federal country with population focused in a few urban centers. However it is generally a COVID success story, like Argentina could have been earlier on. As are some other “boring” Asian countries. Island references have no meaning since Argentina has closed borders for months now (and any infiltrations are not massive or documented sources of contagion, especially in AMBA) and even in those islands, repatriations continue to bring new cases with them.

The issue in Argentina is Cultural. Politicians like many people don’t act with brains, they act with whims and emotions. Their followers lap it up and ask for more to serve their own passions and emotions. Everyone just does whatever they feel like doing. There is no self-discipline and there is impunity. Boring countries need (politically) boring people. If there is one thing in life that absolutely needs to be boring to “get it right” it’s government - they have work to do.
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This country has too many 'boludos' who think the world revolves around them to enforce an intelligent scheme unfortunately. My wife was telling me there are STILL people sharing mate at work (they just change the bomba).. Talk about stupid lol. The virus is concentrated on the poorer parts of the the cities where social distancing/hygiene and most common sense is not that great.