Colombia urged to rethink tax-free day after ‘Covid Friday’

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Critics say the government risked a spike in coronavirus cases in its desperation to spur consumer spending

Gideon Long in Bogotá

The Colombian government is under pressure to scrap one of its more eye-catching economic policies after it prompted shoppers to flout social distancing rules in their rush to buy clothes, televisions and other consumer goods.

The government had declared Friday a “VAT-free day”. For 24 hours, value added tax, which in Colombia is set at 19 per cent, was suspended on all retail sales.

After months in lockdown, Colombians flocked to shopping centres to pick up bargains. There were long queues outside some stores and social media was flooded with images of people jostling to enter shops and hauling away TVs and other consumer goodies. Most seemed to be wearing masks but in many cases social distancing was non-existent.

The mayor of Bogotá, Claudia López, dubbed the day “Covid Friday”.