Although the hundreds of people waiting in the store wore face masks, many were unable to maintain social distance.

Hundreds of thousands of Colombians they challenged long lines on Friday to take advantage of the first day of sales tax or VAT exemption, even in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic quarantine that has confirmed almost 10,000 new infections in just five days.

The Andean country was confined since the end of March. Although certain restrictions have been lifted, the Quarantine will last until July 1.

The president of Colombia, Iván Duque, announced at the end of last year three days free of VAT for 2020 -which corresponds to a rate of 19% in most commerce-, before the economy was hit by the simultaneous shocks of a falling oil prices and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Duque praised the initiative as a way to boost sluggish consumption amid rising unemployment and economic contraction, which hit a record high of 20.06% in April, even as some cities applied restrictions that only allowed the departure of some people.

Colombia registers more than 60 thousand 200 confirmed cases of coronavirus and more than 1,900 deaths, but people went out in a massive way to visit the stores despite the fear of contagion.

« Between my brothers we gave a TV to my ‘daddy’ on Father’s Day, » said Nancy Osorio, 43, who waited outside the Alkosto hypermarket for more than two hours.

The government encouraged people to use e-commerce to avoid crowds, but Osorio indicated that he did not know how to buy online.

According to initial data, sales increased at least five times during the day compared to a normal day during quarantine, and were up 30% against levels seen before the closing began, the Colombian government said in a statement.

Pablo Ballén, 22, bought a 70-inch television for about $ 130 less than when he purchased one on Black Friday last year.

« I came personally because the online pages are all down, » he said. « There is a considerable discount. »

Although the hundreds of people waiting in the store wore face masks, many were unable to maintain social distance. Another Alkosto warehouse in Bogotá was closed by officials for failing to carry out crowd control.

« One of the conditions for this to go as expected is that people also implement their self-protection and self-care stockings, » Andrés Barreto, superintendent of industry and commerce, told ..

« Look, your life is not worth 500,000 Colombian pesos (about $ 113), » said buyer Franklin Lopez, 45. « But there is not enough money not to take advantage today. » (.)