By Marco Aquino
LIMA (Reuters) – Peru hopes to gradually emerge from the economic hibernation aimed at halting the spread of the novel coronavirus and return to “more or less” normal levels of productive activity in 2021, President Martin Vizcarra said on Tuesday.
The president told a press conference in the capital Lima that restrictions to curb the disease would not postpone presidential elections scheduled for April 2021, though he called into doubt the primary polls, due to take place towards the end of this year.
“In May we will start opening things up, but gradually and slowly so as not to generate a resurgence of the disease,” said Vizcarra.
Peru last week extended its state of emergency and nightly curfew for another two weeks until April 26, a measure that has slowed the economy of the world’s second largest copper producer and left millions without jobs.
The government has announced an economic stimulus package worth 12% of its Gross Domestic Product to support its most vulnerable companies and populations.
Vizcarra said efforts to restart the economy would focus on the productive construction, agro-industry, fishing and agro-export industries, which would be expected to operate under specified health security protocols.
Businesses involving large gatherings such as restaurants, cinemas or theater would have to wait for longer, he added, but out of work employees will have access to state subsidies.
Vizcarra, who took office two years ago after former President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski’s resignation over allegations of corruption, said coronavirus restrictions will not postpone next year’s presidential and legislative elections. He confirmed again that he would not run as a candidate.
“The general elections have to be held in April 2021, because the problem will already be overcome at that time,” he said. “I am not going to participate, but I am going to guide them so that they are clean elections.”
(Reporting by Marco Aquino; Writing by Aislinn Laing; Editing by Richard Chang)