Amidst a daily average of 5,000 new coronavirus cases, Guatemalan senators on Monday approved a "National Emergency Law to Fight the COVID-19 Pandemic," which sets reference prices for medicines, extends vaccination to the population between 12 and 17 years of age, and prioritizes the recruitment of medical personnel.
Guatemalan Congress Repeals State-of-Calamity Decree
These measures, which will be temporary and conditional, will allow conditioning public health services to serve better the Guatemalan population exposed to the pandemic. Thanks to this policy, doctors treating COVID-19 patients will receive a US$250 bonus, and medical students who collaborate in this process as part of their supervised practices will also be awarded a scholarship.
The law also appoints audit commissions to verify the contracting processes of health personnel and prevent failures in the management of public funds. In the Senate plenary meeting, lawmakers also rejected President Alejandro Giammattei’s proposal to establish a military medical center to serve Army members, politicians, and other personalities with COVID-19.
"The National Emergency Law provides that all public institutions will make their facilities available to health authorities to treat coronavirus patients. Therefore, setting a military facility is useless to this purpose," pro-government senator Lazaro Zamora stated, recalling that his institution would not blindly accept Giammattei’s proposals.
Previously, the Guatemalan Cogress had repealed two “State of Calamity” decrees issued by Giammattei to halt the COVID-19 contagions, arguing that this policy facilitated corruption since it allowed the President to make purchases without following the Recruitment Act procedures.
Since August, daily coronavirus deaths have tripled in Guatemala, and nearly 90 percent of the country’s 340 municipalities are on Red Alert for the pandemic. As of Sept. 14, this Central American country had reported 511,457 COVID-19 cases and 12,754 related deaths, 44 of which occurred in the last 24 hours.
Guatemalan vaccination rates also remain among the lowest on the continent. So far, only 10.8 percent of 16.3 million inhabitants have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and 3,8 million citizens have received a first dose of the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, or Sputnik V vaccines.