The COVID-19 pandemic is a disaster that combines a biological threat with various vulnerabilities, such as the organizational and response capacity of health systems, overcrowding, informality, social work practices, and public transport.
The human and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are unprecedented. According to World Health Organization (WHO) figures, by November 2020 it had caused more than 18 times more deaths than all the epidemics that took place in Latin America and the Caribbean between 1970 and 2019. For the first time since records began, all the countries of the region have seen their economies contract at the same time, destroying jobs and driving up poverty and inequality. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the cracks in the existing development pattern, and revealed its limitations, around the world, but particularly in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The pandemic has hit at a time when a development model with serious structural flaws has been the norm: growing inequality, high labour informality, weak and fragmented institutions —especially those related to social protection— and production and business structures with limited technological capabilities that are concentrated in sectors which depend on static comparative advantages, such as natural resources and low wages.
Governments have taken health, social and economic measures to address the emergency and reduce the impact of the crisis on the most vulnerable. Most of the countries in the region have made notable efforts, considering their reduced fiscal space. However, in addition to short-term relief, there must be a response to structural problems. The goal cannot be to reinstate the previous development pattern, but to move towards a new one. After the emergency has passed, a renewed commitment is needed, to move towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the central principles of which are increasingly relevant: the need for a sustainable development model and the interdependence of its social, environmental and economic dimensions.