By Sinikka Tarvainen (dpa)
HAVANA TIMES – Colombia will introduce two more days without sales tax, despite the first one sparking a shopping frenzy that came under widespread criticism amid rising coronavirus figures, local media reported on Tuesday.
President Ivan Duque wants to use three days without VAT to kickstart consumption in the country which has been under quarantine since late March, and where the economy contracted by 20 per cent in April year-on-year.
Nearly 6 million Colombians rushed to buy home appliances and other goods last Friday, with trade increasing by almost 300 per cent, broadcaster Caracol reported on Tuesday.
The shoppers did not respect social distancing and other safety measures in some places, sparking concern that coronavirus infections could soar in the country, which has already confirmed more than
71,000 infections and over 2,300 deaths.
Colombia has until now been less affected than its neighbours, but the number of infections has increased rapidly this month. Bogota Mayor Claudia Lopez dubbed the VAT-free Friday “Covid Friday.”
The government nevertheless maintains plans to also lift sales tax on July 3 and 19.
Duque on Tuesday defended the days without VAT and other moves to open the economy, saying that the victims of the pandemic were not only those infected, but also “jobs and companies.”
However, the government is considering changes to the rules on the VAT-free days, including more sales over the internet.
The government also says there will be stricter measures against people who do not respect the quarantine.
Police dispersed nearly 3,000 parties and meetings, arresting 85 people and handing fines to almost 12,000 people last weekend and on Monday, which was a public holiday, according to figures quoted by media reports.
The quarantine is in force until the end of the month.