Thursday, June 4, 2020

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Colombia’s Health Ministry reported that as of June 2, 31,833 people had contracted Coronavirus nationally since tracking began four months ago -- including 1,009 deaths and 11,142 recoveries so far.

Bogota is by far the worst at 10,743 cases including 267 deaths, followed by Atlantico (4,550 cases); Cali/Valle del Cauca (3,714); Bolivar (3,364); Amazonas (1,852); Antioquia (1,200); Meta (981); and Cundinamarca (983).

Despite being Colombia’s second-largest city, Medellin itself has had only 557 of Antioquia’s 1,200 total cases – 245 of which are active, with 309 recovered.

What’s more, Medellin has had only three Covid-19 deaths – none in the last six weeks, and the best rate in all Colombia per 1 million inhabitants -- compared to Bogota’s national-worst 267 deaths.

Even more remarkable, nearly all Medellin Covid-19 patients are recovering at home, with only seven people in hospital -- four of which are in intensive care units (ICUs), the other three in regular care. Technology innovations in telemedicine are aiding the home-care efforts.

As a result, Medellin has plenty of spare ICU capacity for future “critical” Covid-19 cases, capacity of which Medellin is expanding in any case at Clinica La 80 and elsewhere.

Simultaneously, Medellin leads all Colombia in orderly, organized and relatively biosafe economic recovery -- pioneering in the reopening of many industries and even shopping centers.

How does Medellin do it?

In a June 3 posting to his Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/DQuinteroCalle/) Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero largely credits the “MedellínMeCuida” computerized data-capture and analysis program for relative success in thwarting Covid-19.

“'#MedellínMeCuida' is perhaps the most effective strategy against Covid-19 in all of Latin America,” according to Quintero.

“However, despite the fact that many believe that it is an application, it really is a revolutionary way to rethink state intervention.

“It was born in principle with the name of ‘Equipos Territoriales de Atención Integral Familiar’ [Territorial Teams for Comprehensive Family Care] in our government programs, chosen [by the Medellin City Council] with the highest vote in the history of the city and endorsed in the Development Plan, allocating about 25% of the [family-care] budget.

“In itself, ‘MedellínMeCuida’ is a system that is based on providing comprehensive care to families in the territories -- especially health, psychological and social care, the fight against malnutrition and access to education in the territories.

“After the pandemic started, ‘MedellínMeCuida’ faced a test of its capacity and efficiency. We developed in-house, with developers from the Mayor’s Office, a platform that allowed us transparency on who received support, and measured [Covid-19 response] effectiveness. [As a result], Medellín was the first city [in Colombia] to bring aid to a territory.

“’MedellínMeCuida’ was integrated with the '123' [emergency call-line platform], the SEM (Sistema de Emergencias Médicas Medellín y Antioquia [Emergency Rescue Service]), Sisben [Sistema de Identificación de Potenciales Beneficiarios de Programas Sociales – Colombia's welfare-eligibility classification system] and others. We use advanced analytics, geo-referencing, and data-science strategies that have helped reduce uncertainty in decision making.

“’MedellínMeCuida’ also proved its effectiveness during the process of economic reopenings. Companies registered their employees, uploaded bioprotocols and were able to open much faster. It improves our ability to fence-around local Covid outbreaks, and increases efficiency in the delivery of aid to vulnerable populations.

“Thanks to ‘#MedellínMeCuida’ and ‘#MedellínMeCuidaEmpresas’ we learned who still needed help and who did not. For example: Last week we gave aid to 100,000 families who we were certain had no income because they have not recovered their jobs.

“Then we integrated ‘#MedellínMeCuida’ with the Metro [public transit] system and we were able to know the percentage of [transit] occupation in real time with detail by economic sector, allowing agreements to be reached with various [industrial/commercial] sectors to adjust their work schedules [to avoid overcrowding].

“Information is a powerful tool. There are terrible cases in the world where information has been used for evil purposes. For this reason, we take very seriously the way information is obtained and managed,” he added.


Area Metropolitana Valle de Aburra – the coordinating agency for 10 cities in the Medellin metro area – announced last night (May 29) big changes to the “pico y cedula” regulation for shopping and banking trips.

Starting Monday, June 1, through Sunday, June 7, people with cedulas ending in even numbers can venture out on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday (see chart, above), while people with cedulas ending in odd numbers can venture out on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

The new regulation applies to Barbosa, Girardota, Copacabana, Medellín, Envigado, Itagüí, Sabaneta, La Estrella, Caldas and even Bello, the latter of which had earlier announced plans to abandon “pico y cedula” but decided to join the new, much-more-liberalized version.

“Regarding the [new Colombian government-allowed] schedules for outdoor exercise activities [differing for various age groups], the decision of schedules and forms will be the power of each of the mayors of the 10 municipalities,” according to AMVA. In Medellin's case, all adults will be free to choose whatever hours they prefer.

As for “pico y placa” vehicle-circulation restrictions, individual taxis will circulate only on their number-alloted days, but private vehicles and motorcycles are exempt, in order to reduce crowding and potential Covid-19 cross-contamination on the Metro public transit system;

While national Covid-19 quarantine exemptions expand broadly in June, “all biosafety protocols must be maintained and pilot [test programs] will be carried out for certain sectors as for example, hairdressers,” according to AMVA.

In a subsequent press conference, Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero clarified that shopping malls and other commercial operations that comply with new biosafety protocols -- as proven effective in a test program at three malls here – will reopen during this coming week and next.

Quintero expressed optimism about preventing any big surge of Covid-19 here thanks mainly to citizen discipline and compliance with face mask rules, social distancing, registration in the “Medellin Me Cuida” computerized tracking-and-alert system, and new agreements with various industries here to adjust work-hour shifts and schedules to avoid overcrowding on the “Metro” transit system.

However, Quintero warned that the broader economic reopenings and greater individual freedoms starting June 1 must be accompanied by continued strict adherence to biosafety norms by all residents and businesses. Otherwise, metro Medellin and other cities around Colombia inevitably would face a return to stricter quarantine rules.

“I am asking the Medellin police to be extra-strict about face masks. If at least 95% of the people are wearing face masks, then we are going to be able to control Coronavirus,” Quintero said.

People failing to wear a face mask in public will be hit with a hefty COP$940,000 (US$252) fine and also will be prohibited from entering the Metro transit system for two weeks, he added.

As for the new outdoor-exercise privileges -- three times per week, from 30 minutes to two hours depending upon age group -- it will be up to parents, other adults (18-69) and seniors (70 and over) to decide which days and which hours they choose to exercise outdoors, he said. In other words, Medellin isn’t going to ask police to control these outdoor excursions, as long as people are wearing face masks and keeping safe distances (at least two meters apart), he said.

As for reopening other types of commercial operations -- apart from shopping malls -- Medellin this week will launch pilot test programs at several shops. Then starting June 8, the rest of commercial operations here would reopen -- as long as they meet new biosafety protocols, he said.

Meanwhile, Medellin continues to expand its hospital and clinic capacity for potential Covid-19 patients, although the city currently has plenty of surplus capacity, thanks to Medellin’s widely-praised biosafety measures, pioneering registration-and-tracking technologies, and civic compliance.

Quintero also urged Colombia’s medical-device regulator Invima to accelerate comercial approval for the Medellin-developed, relatively low-cost specialty respirator devices for Covid-19 patients. Those respirators are already in patient trials -- and only await final Invima certification for mass production and sale, he noted.

However, while Medellin outshines Colombia generally in Covid-19 avoidance, a single neighborhood – barrio Santa Cruz – recently suffered a localized outbreak, which triggered mandatory isolation of that neighborhood, Quintero added.


Following a nationally televised address last night (May 28), Colombia President Ivan Duque signed “Decree 749” listing 43 industrial, commercial, educational and personal exemptions from the national Covid-19 quarantine starting June 1.

In addition, Transport Minister Angela Orozco announced during the same televised address that international flights to and from Colombia would be allowed starting September 1. Left unexplained is whether, when, how or which of the origin or destination countries actually would allow such flights, or which airlines would participate.

Under the new decree, people 18-to-69-years-old can now perform outdoor exercise three times a week for two hours per day.

Those 70 and older likewise can exercise outdoors three times a week, initially for 30 minutes per day. But this could expand to at least one hour per day following Health Ministry analysis of local or national Covid-19 trends and risks, as outdoor-hours-expansions recently have been extended to other age groups.

In addition, people can use these outdoor excursions for walks with pets, but “only one person per family” is allowed, according to the new decree.

It's still up to local mayors to extend controls such as  "pico y cedula" restrictions for shopping and banking trips. Medellin metro-area mayors likely will make final decisions on "pico y cedula" extensions or revisions this weekend, prior to June 1. But the northern suburb of Bello, Antioquia has already decided to opt-out of "pico y cedula."

Meanwhile, departmental governors and local mayors must coordinate with the Ministry of the Interior on any other possible exceptions following June 1, which potentially might be allowed in certain areas, such as areas without a single case of Covid-19.

However, “mayors with the due authorization of the Ministry of the Interior may suspend the activities or cases” allowed in the list of exceptions.

For example: If any municipality suffers a new outbreak of Covid-19 that might be tied to certain activities, then the Health Ministry will send a report to the Interior Ministry, following which “the Interior Ministry will order the mayor to close the respective activities or cases.”

The decree also bans operation of “establishments and commercial premises for recreation and entertainment, bars, discos, dance, leisure and entertainment and games of gambling and betting, billiards, casinos, bingo and video game terminals,” as well as “gyms, swimming pools, spas, saunas, Turkish baths, spas, sports fields, sports centers, mechanical amusement parks and playgrounds,” as well as “cinemas and theaters, sports and group exercise in public parks and recreation areas, contact sports or practicing together.”

“Religious services involving crowds or meetings [also] will not be allowed,” according to the decree.

According to Decree 749, here are the 43 activities exempt from quarantine:

1.Assistance and provision of health services.

2. Acquisition and payment of goods and services. A single person per family will be allowed to carry out these activities.

3. Assistance and care for children, adolescents, people over 70 years of age, people with disabilities and patients with special treatments that require assistance from trained personnel. When such persons must leave a place of residence or isolation, they may do so accompanied by a person who serves as support.

4. Activities due to force majeure or fortuitous event.

5. The tasks of the medical missions of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and of all international humanitarian and health organizations, the provision of public and private professional, administrative, operational, and technical health services.

6.- The chain of production, supply, storage, transportation, marketing and distribution of medicines, pharmaceuticals, supplies, cleaning products, disinfection and personal hygiene for homes and hospitals, equipment and devices of health technologies, as well as maintenance and support to guarantee the continuous provision of health services. Also included: operation of establishments and commercial premises for the commercialization of medicines, pharmaceuticals, supplies, equipment and devices of health technologies.

7. Activities related to emergency services, including veterinary emergencies.

8. Funeral services, burials and cremations.

9. The chain of production, supply, storage, transport, commercialization and distribution of: inputs to produce basic necessities, including food, beverages, medicines, medical devices, cleaning, cleaning, and goods of ordinary consumption in the population; laboratory reagents; food, medicines and other products for pets, as well as the elements and goods necessary to attend to the sanitary emergency, and the chain of supplies related to the production of these goods.

10. The chain of sowing, fumigation, harvesting, production, packaging, packaging, import, export, transport, storage, distribution and marketing of: seeds, inputs and agricultural, fishing, aquaculture, livestock and agrochemical products including fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, and animal feed, maintenance of animal health, the operation of primary and secondary food processing centers, the operation of the commercialization infrastructure, major and minor irrigation for the supply of population and agricultural water, and the technical assistance. The logistics and transportation of the above activities will be guaranteed. Likewise, the maintenance activities of boats and agricultural or fishing machinery.

11. The face-to-face marketing of basic necessity products will be carried out in stores, warehouses, markets, wholesale and retail supermarkets and retail markets in establishments and commercial premises nationwide, and they may market their products through electronic commerce platforms and/or for home delivery.

12. The activities of public servants, government contractors, individuals who perform public functions and other personnel necessary to prevent, mitigate and attend to the health emergency due to the covid-19 coronavirus, and guarantee the operation of governmente services.

13.The activities of the personnel of the diplomatic and consular missions duly accredited to the Colombian State, strictly necessary to prevent, mitigate and attend to the health emergency due to the covid-19 coronavirus.

14. The activities of the military forces, the national Police and state security agencies, as well as the military and defense industry, and officials of the Attorney General's Office and the National Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences.

15. The activities of public and private service ports, exclusively for cargo transportation.

16. Maritime and river dredging activities.

17. The execution of transport infrastructure works and public works, as well as the supply chain of materials and supplies related to their execution.

18. The activities of the construction sector, execution of civil works and the remodeling of buildings, as well as the supply of materials and supplies exclusively destined for their execution.

19. The air and airport operation in accordance with the provisions of article 8 of the decree, and their respective maintenance.

20. The commercialization of the products of gastronomic establishments and premises, including those located in hotels, through electronic commerce platforms, by home delivery and by take-away delivery.

21. The activities of the hotel industry to serve its guests strictly necessary to prevent, mitigate and attend the health emergency due to the covid-19 coronavirus.

22. The operation of critical infrastructure including computers, computer systems, communication networks, data and information, whose destruction or interference can weaken or impact the security of the economy, public health or a combination of them.

23. The operation of call centers, contact centers, technical support centers and data processing centers that provide services in the national territory and electronic commerce platforms.

24. The operation of the provision of private security and surveillance services, prison and penitentiary services.

25. Cleaning and toilet services, including domestic service and laundry service.

26. The activities necessary to guarantee the operation, maintenance, storage and supply of the provision of public services of aqueduct, sewage, electric energy, public lighting, cleanliness (collection, transportation, use and final disposal, recycling, including biological waste or sanitary) and recovery of materials; of the logistics chain of inputs, supplies for the production, supply, import, export and supply of hydrocarbons, liquid fuels, biofuels, natural gas, Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG); of the supply logistics chain, supplies for the production, supply, import, export and supply of minerals, and internet and telephone service.

27. The provision of services: banking; financial; payment postal operators; currency buying and selling professionals; operations of [lottery] games of luck and chance in the form of novel and territorial permanent bets; chance and lottery; transport of valuables; notarial activities and registration of public instruments, and issuance of urban planning licenses.

The Superintendent of Notaries and Registry will determine the hours and shifts in which notarial services will be provided, guaranteeing the provision of the service to the most vulnerable people and those with special constitutional protection.

28. The operation of postal, courier, radio, television, press and distribution services of the media.

29. The supply and distribution of basic necessities -- food, beverages, medicines, medical devices, hygiene, cleaning, and goods of ordinary consumption in the population -- under social programs of the State and private persons.

30. The activities of the interreligious sector related to institutional emergency programs, humanitarian, spiritual and psychological aid.

31. The production, supply, storage, repair, maintenance, transport and distribution chain of manufacturing industries.

32. Wholesale and retail trade, including the operation of shopping centers and real estate activities.

33. The activities of operators of payments of wages, fees, pensions, public and private economic benefits; periodic social economic benefits (BEPS), and those corresponding to the Social Security and Social Protection systems and subsystems.

34. The strictly necessary displacement of the directing and teaching staff of public and private educational institutions, to prevent, mitigate and attend to the health emergency due to the covid-19 coronavirus.

35. In accordance with the measures, instructions and schedules established by the mayors in their respective territorial jurisdictions, and in any case subject to the biosafety protocols established for this purpose, the following will be allowed:

• Physical activities and outdoor exercise of people who are in the age range of 18 to 69 years, for a maximum period of two hours a day.
• Physical activities and outdoor exercise of children over 6 years old, three times a week, one hour a day.
• Physical activities and outdoor exercise of children between 2 and 5 years old, three times a week, half an hour a day.
• Physical activities and outdoor exercise of adults over 70 years, three times a week, half an hour a day.

36. The carrying out of appraisals of goods and carrying out of studies of titles that have the purpose of the constitution of guarantees, before entities supervised by the Financial Superintendence of Colombia.

37. The operation of communal police stations and police inspections, as well as their users.

38. The manufacture, repair, maintenance and purchase and sale of spare parts and accessories for conventional and electric bicycles.

39. Public parking for vehicles.

40. Museums and libraries.

41. Practical and research laboratories of institutions of higher education and education for work and human development.

42. Professional, technical and service activities in general.

43. Hairdressing services.


The Medellin Mayor’s Office announced May 27 that a test reopening program at three shopping malls here confirms that Covid-19 biosafety compliance indeed is feasible -- clearing the way for broader mall reopenings on June 1.

“About 18,000 people [initially] participated in the pilot program to reopen shopping centers in Medellín” that started May 25, according to the Mayor’s Office.

The test reopenings at Oviedo Mall, Mall La Frontera and Gran Plaza attracted some 6,500 shoppers on May 25, another 10,000 on May 26 and thousands more on May 27, according to the Mayor's press bulletin.

“The balance is very positive,” said Medellin’s Secretary for Territorial Management and Control Alejandro Arias García. “People made their purchases, complying with strict biosecurity protocols, respecting authority and acting civilly, which is the perfect combination to create this balance between protecting against the Coronavirus but also protecting employment and the economy,” Arias added.

As a result, “with the compliance of protocols by vendors and visitors, it is estimated that on June 1 other shopping centers will come into operation,” according to the Mayor’s Office.

“Citizens are reminded that those who want to make purchases in these establishments must register on the Medellín Me Cuida platform [see: https://www.medellin.gov.co/medellinmecuida], have the CoronaApp application installed [see: https://coronaviruscolombia.gov.co/Covid19/aislamiento-saludable/coronapp.html]
and activate Bluetooth on their mobile phones to enter,” the Mayor’s Office added.

The “Medellín Me Cuida” and “CoronaApp” platforms enable health officials to contact people who potentially have been exposed to Covid-19 and trace movements of potential Coronavirus carriers.

While some worry about privacy invasion by such applications, others are glad to know that health officials are indeed looking-out for their safety by ensuring prompt alerts of potential or actual infections.

For example: South Korea officials report tremendous success with cell-phone-based Covid-19 data capture, alerts and contact tracing, vastly reducing Coronavirus outbreaks while enabling much-faster economic reopenings.


EPM Social/Environmental Projects Director Ana Milena Joya Camacho revealed in a May 26 meeting with Antioquia departmental officials that 192 workers at the “Hidroituango” hydroelectric project have tested positive for Coronavirus.

Because of this outbreak – first detected among 13 workers on May 12 -- EPM not only has removed, isolated and ensured treatment of all those infected, but also is now testing 100% of all employees at the construction site, Joya said.

In addition, EPM is imposing even stricter biosafety protocols on all workers, beyond the protocols first adopted in March 2020, she said. What’s more, no outsiders will be allowed inside the project site unless cleared of Covid-19 symptoms and tested.

Following the initial outbreak in early May, EPM arranged with Universidad de Antioquia to test all workers. An initial test campaign covering 418 workers on May 16 confirmed seven more Covid-19 cases, according to EPM.

As a result, EPM reported that as of May 16, a total 10 of workers had shown mild symptoms.  “But in case their health requires it, the CCCI Consortium [the construction companies building Hidroituango] together with EPM and health authorities are prepared for their timely and safe posting to the hospital entity indicated by the EPS where the workers are affiliated,” according to the company.

“Through the agreement with the University of Antioquia, tests will continue to be carried out on all of the contractor’s workers to properly guide their efforts in mitigating the pandemic and protecting the health of their community, the families of the workers and the populations of the municipalities of the area of influence,” according to EPM.


The Medellin Mayor’s Office on May 27 unveiled a COP$4.48 trillion (US$1.2 billion) “EcoCiudad” (Eco-City) “Medellín Futuro” four-year budget that includes environmental protection, education, recycling and expansion of zero-emissions transport.

“The capital of Antioquia is committed to increasing protected areas, strategic ecosystems, restoring forest cover and guaranteeing the protection of the watersheds and micro-watersheds that supply it through the payment for environmental services projects,” according to the Mayor’s Office.

The plan will “restore and protect around 3,000 hectares of aqueduct-supplying basins, in addition to strengthening the development of green and sustainable infrastructure that improves the urban quality and ecological conditions of the city.

“For this, the La Aguada Wildlife Refuge will be implemented and the connectivity of forested areas will be increased with 4,000 square meters of green corridors, allowing the movement of animals such as foxes and opossums,” according to the Mayor’s Office.

“The La Perla Animal Welfare Center and the rescue program for major species will be strengthened with comprehensive care for highly vulnerable street pets with rescue services, comprehensive medical care (deworming, vaccination, diagnostic aids, hospitalization, surgery and special care), food, accommodation, microchip implantation and admission to the adoption program.

“The care and population control of pigeons, as well as the management, protection and proper management of bees are also part of the project,” according to the bulletin.

As for the 56 primary streams and 4,161 secondary waterways around the city, “6,000 linear meters of streams will be intervened to reduce flood events in the city,” according to the Mayor’s Office.

As for greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction initiatives, “Medellín has developed a greenhouse gas inventory in its alliance with the C40 climate leadership network that serves as a baseline to become carbon neutral by 2050. Actions have been prioritized to reduce emissions by 5% in 2023, 20% by 2030 and 100% by 2050,” according to the bulletin.

As for solid waste minimization, “a pilot plant will be implemented for the reuse of solid waste” along with new training and protection for existing recycling workers.

On yet another front, the project includes aid for plant nurseries, environmental advisory committees, training for the design and implementation of urban eco-gardens and “environmental awareness in the proper separation of solid waste,” according to the bulletin.


Medellin-based construction giant Constructora Conconcreto revealed in a May 26 filing with Colombia’s Superfinanciera oversight agency that its first quarter (1Q) 2020 net income fell 34% year-on-year, to COP$20 billion (US$5.3 million).

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) also fell 16% year-on-year, to COP$44.7 billion (US$11.9 million), while gross income fell 12%, to COP$169.7 billion (US$45 million), according to the company.

While the Covid-19 crisis hurt all construction companies in Colombia because of temporary quarantines and project shut-downs in March, most of the decline in profits this year came from extraordinary gains in 1Q 2019 that were absent in 1Q 2020, according to Conconcreto.

The profit variation “mainly corresponds to the results of 2019 that were affected by around COP$28 billion (US$7.5 million) by the dividends and profits for sale of the CCFC concession,” a one-time event last year, the company explained.

On the other hand, Conconcreto saw 1Q 2020 profit improvements from several other projects and investments “as well as a greater contribution from [commercial real-estate development consortium] Pactia,” according to the company.

Among initiatives to confront the Covid-19 crisis, Conconcreto renegotiated terms on its credit lines and accelerated certain divestments that have been in the works since 2018, according to the company.

“Since the start of the [divestments] plan in 2018, COP$274 billion [US$73 million] in cash has been received,” according to Conconcreto.

On the other hand, “the company has chosen to keep and pay the salaries of employees during the emergency period,” according to Conconcreto.

Construction backlog at end-1Q 2020 totaled COP$1.8 trillion (US$480 million), “which corresponds to around two years of operation,” according to the company.

Infrastructure projects account for 87% of the backlog and 13% in housing/building projects, according to Conconcreto.

In housing, “as of March 31, 2020, there are eight projects under construction, concentrated in Bogotá, Medellín, Neiva and Barranquilla,” according to the company.

These projects include 74 government-subsidized housing units “expected to sell on average in approximately nine months, 455 middle-class units expected to sell on average in 23 months, and 67 upper-income units expected to sell. on average in a period of 21 months,” according to Conconcreto.


Chile-based Latam Airlines – second only to bankrupt Avianca in Colombian air transport dominance -- announced May 26 that it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in U.S. federal court.

The Covid-19 crisis – banning most air traffic -- forced Latam to absorb impossible losses, the company noted.

For example: Colombia has banned all regular passenger air transport for more than two months, with international flights continuing to be banned through at least August 31 and national flights banned through at least June 30.

“We want our stakeholders to know that we will continue to operate as travel restrictions and demand permit, paying our employees, meeting benefit obligations, and paying critical suppliers as well as respecting ‘Latam Pass’ miles and flight reservations as we work through the Chapter 11 reorganization process,” according to the company.

“In addition, all tickets, vouchers, or any form of credit will continue to be respected. We will also maintain partnerships with existing agencies, abide by corporate loyalty programs and sell tickets through our service platform, and you will be able to continue to interact with our customer service operators as you did prior to this announcement.

“The U.S. Chapter 11 financial reorganization process provides a clear and guided opportunity to work with our creditors and other stakeholders to reduce our debt, address commercial challenges that we, like others in our industry, are facing as a group. Latam will emerge from this process a more efficient, resilient, and ultimately strengthened airline group that is better placed to serve Latin America,” the company added.

The bankruptcy applies to Latam Group and its affiliates in Chile, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and the United States, according to the company. "Entities incorporated in Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay are not [in bankruptcy], due to the nature of their debt structure and current financial status,” according to Latam.

“Whether included in the filing or not, all of our affiliates are able to operate as travel restrictions and customer demand permit. Our cargo operations have been operating above capacity through these challenging times, and that will not change as a result of our reorganization.

“Through the Chapter 11 protection process, we will pay vendors for all goods and services ordered or delivered after the filing date in the ordinary course and according to our existing terms.

“A key part of the reorganization of the business is the right sizing and shape of the fleet to reflect the current and anticipated market conditions. To support these objectives and protect the value of our group, we have made the difficult but necessary decision to terminate certain leases that no longer serve the best interest of our business from an operational or financial standpoint,” the company added.

 


Mayorships in the 10 municipalities in the metro Medellin area announced late May 23 that they will continue “pico y cedula” shopping-days restrictions starting Monday, May 25, through Sunday, May 31.

According to Área Metropolitana del Valle de Aburrá (AMVA) -- the regional coordinating agency for Medellin-metro governments – people with cedulas ending in 7 or 8 can venture out on Monday, May 25, while people with cedulas ending in 9 or 0 can venture out on Tuesday, May 26 – with successive number/days rotations (see chart, above).

The regulation applies to the cities of Barbosa, Girardota, Copacabana, Bello, Medellín, Envigado, Itagüí, Sabaneta, La Estrella and Caldas, following Colombian government extension of the national Covid-19 quarantine through May 31 -- with new regulations possible for June.

As has been the case since “pico y cedula” began two months ago, only one person per household is permitted to venture-out for shopping and banking trips on the designated "pico y cedula" days.

However, workers in quarantine-exempt industries -- who also are enrolled in the mandatory “Medellin Me Cuida” program -- are exempt from “pico y cedula” restrictions.

Personal vehicles continue to be exempt from “pico y placa” restrictions, in order to avoid crowding on the "Metro" public transit system. But taxis in the 10 cities here are returning to their prior “pico y placa” restrictions starting May 25, according to AMVA.

Colombia President Ivan Duque plans to announce later this week what sort of general restrictions must be imposed for Covid-19 avoidance for the month of June. Following that announcement, the 10 mayors of metro Medellin subsequently will meet to decide on possible extension or revision of “pico y cedula” rules for June 1 through June 30, according to AMVA.


Medellin-based multinational utilities giant EPM on May 22 posted a COP$276 billion (US$73 million) net loss for first quarter (1Q) 2020 --solely because its debt accounting is in U.S. dollars, rather than in sharply-depreciating Colombian pesos.

“Due to accounting standards and due to the depreciation of the Colombian peso, understanding the debt that the company has in dollars, this accounting loss is generated by re-expressing it to pesos in accounting in Colombia,” according to EPM, 100% owned by the city of Medellin.

“This accounting loss is the result of the historical depreciation of the Colombian peso, which reached 24.03% in March as a consequence of the unusual behavior of world oil prices.

“In this sense, EPM must comply with accounting standards that imply that the depreciation of the Colombian peso leads to an increase in the debt balance in pesos due to the restatement of debt balances in dollars, even when the value owed in dollars does not change. The restatement negatively affects profits and generates high volatility,” the company added.

While depreciation hurts its accounting balance, “borrowing in dollars allows the business group to access the necessary funds to enable investments in infrastructure and growth, which are essential in generating employment,” the company explained.

Despite the accounting loss, EPM nevertheless maintained an investment-grade rating, actually “the highest credit rating among Colombian companies,” it noted.

During 1Q 2020, revenues rose 11% year-on-year, to COP$4.7 trillion (US$1.2 billion), while operating earnings rose 1%, to COP$1.2 trillion (US$318 million).

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) rose 5% year-on-year, to COP$1.5 trillion (US$397 million), with an EBITDA margin of 32%.

“The pandemic caused by the Coronavirus did not impact these figures, since its appearance in the country occurred at the end of the quarter,” according to EPM.

Despite the accounting loss, “these results reflect the health and financial strength of the organization” thanks in part to portfolio diversification, added EPM General Manager Álvaro Guillermo Rendón López.

“Of the COP$4.7 trillion [US$1.2 billion] in revenue as of March 31, 2020, EPM parent company contributed 49%, foreign subsidiaries 34% and national energy and water subsidiaries 17%,” he added.

Meanwhile, profit transfers to the municipality of Medellín in 2020 -- which will reach COP$1.5 trillion (US$397 million) or about COP$29 billion (US$7.7 million) weekly – “generate a decrease in equity as of March. The resources for transfers, which allow for greater social investment in the Antioquia capital, are guaranteed given EPM’s liquidity situation,” the company added.

At the end of 1Q 2020, EPM Group’s assets totaled COP$57.2 trillion (US$15 billion), up 4%, while liabilities totaled COP$34.5 trillion (US$9 billion), up of 12%. Equity now stands at COP$22.7 trillion (US$6 billion), down 6%, according to the company.


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Medellin Herald is a locally produced, English-language news and advisory service uniquely focused upon a more-mature audience of visitors, investors, conference and trade-show attendees, property buyers, expats, retirees, volunteers and nature lovers.

U.S. native Roberto Peckham, who founded Medellin Herald in 2015, has been residing in metro Medellin since 2005 and has traveled regularly and extensively throughout Colombia since 1981.

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