(Bloomberg) -- Shoppers flocked to Colombian shopping malls Friday to take advantage of a day without value added tax.
The measure triggered Black Friday-style shopping frenzies in retail outlets, which reopened in the capital Bogota this week after three months of lockdowns to curb the coronavirus pandemic.
President Ivan Duque said the day free of the 19% VAT would help revive business activity and urged shoppers to protect themselves from the virus as they hunt for bargains. Consumer spending crashed by more than 40% in April, and the economy is currently suffering its deepest slump since records began.
“We need to reactivate and recover, but also show that we can maintain these protocols of hand-washing, distancing and the rigorous use of masks,” Duque said Wednesday, in a TV address.
Bogota’s Mayor Claudia Lopez was one of many Colombian public figures who denounced the measure as irresponsible, re-tweeting a description of today as “Covid Friday.”
“With great effort, we have succeeded up to now in curbing the rate of contagion and death,” Lopez said in a post on Twitter. “I hope that the day without VAT doesn’t become the day without life.”
Colombia has so far been less affected by the disease than its neighbors, with 60,000 confirmed infections, compared to 225,000 in Chile, 244,000 in Peru and 978,000 in Brazil.
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