Wednesday, October 28, 2020

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Antioquia’s General Secretary Luis Fernando Suárez announced May 21 that 115 towns in Antioquia that haven’t had a single case of Coronavirus have now been freed from quarantines for nearly all economic sectors.

None of these towns are in the Medellin metro area (Valle de Aburra), however. Nor is the city of Rionegro, where Medellin's international airport is located.

“The Ministry of the Interior gave the guarantee so that the municipalities of the department without Covid-19 cases and located outside the Aburrá Valley can advance in the gradual and safe reactivation of the economy,” according to the official press bulletin from the Antioquia departmental government.

“Although Antioquia is prepared for this new stage, Governor Anibal Gaviria, in a direct dialogue with the 115 mayors of the municipalities located outside the metropolitan area, gave them the freedom to each independently define whether the reopening of their municipality occurs.

“For this, the mayors must issue an administrative act based on the authorization that the Ministry of the Interior has already issued.”

However, “the pandemic is dynamic and every day the scenario changes,” so reopenings can be suspended depending upon future Covid-19 outbreaks, according to the bulletin.

"Every day we must be doing monitoring, measurement and control and it is at this stage that a municipality that was declared 'non-Covid,' the next day may be a 'Covid' municipality, because cases appear,” Suárez added.

“This scenario requires that the mayors who are going to issue the administrative act review the website of the Ministry of the Interior, in a link provided for them, so that upon the certification of [Covid-free] municipalities, a gradual and safe reopening of the economy” can occur.

“Control, monitoring, and compliance with protocols for the gradual opening of the economy are essential, with the use of personal protection measures by people who work in commercial establishments,” the bulletin added.

“We will continue recommending ‘pico y cédula’ [shopping-days rotations], mechanisms that ensure that there are no crowds in establishments and on public roads,” Suarez said.

“The restriction of the educational sector [banning physical attendance at schools] continues until the Ministry of Education authorizes it, just as the restriction for swimming pools and parks, and restaurants can only operate with home-deliveries,” he added.

Meanwhile, Governor Gaviria “has been leading a campaign so that children in the rural areas can return to school due to the [internet] connectivity problems that exist in these areas,” a petition that “awaits the approval of the Education Ministry,” according to the bulletin.

“For this gradual and safe reopening of the economy [in the 115 towns], health checkpoints [on roads] will be strengthened over the next 15 days, to prevent the virus from arriving from other regions, as has happened with the latest registered cases,” the bulletin concluded.


Medellin-based insurance and health-network provider Seguros Sura announced May 21 that it’s expanding a novel home-care testing-and-recovery program for Covid-19 patients.

“The company is a pioneer in this model that already operates in Antioquia, and from next week in Barranquilla, Cali and Bogotá, and then in other cities in the country,” according to Sura.

The scheme “will operate through the ‘Salud en Casa’ Sura home care program and also with other allied medical services of this type,” according to the company.

“The model has a great educational, self-management and interdisciplinary accompaniment component including [services from] professionals in general medicine, nursing, internal medicine, pediatrics, gynecology, infectology, nutrition, respiratory therapy and psychology.

“It includes periodic measurements of blood oxygen saturation levels, postural correction and respiratory therapy. With this, Sura wants to intervene directly in the reduction of two fundamental indicators for the control of the pandemic: mortality and hospital stays, especially in intensive care units (ICU),” according to the company.

“Educating people will allow us to empower them and make them participate in the management of their health and that of their family group,” added Sura EPS general manager Gabriel Mesa Nicholls. “For this we rely on technological advances to intervene early in populations that are symptomatic and require attention. Germany, for example, with a similar model, has achieved mortality levels 50% below the world average,” Mesa explained.

Home-care implementation of the scheme “begins with the delivery of a kit for positive or suspected patients with risk factors for Covid-19, consisting of a pulse oximeter, thermometer and an education plan with very precise and simple instructions for constant monitoring of [blood oxygen] saturation levels and temperature; as well as a guide to postures that patients with symptoms should adopt,” according to the company.

“Based on the data that users will permanently provide from the measurements,via WhatsApp, face-to-face or virtual accompaniments by general medicine doctors and specialists in internal medicine, [subsequent treatment schedules] will be programmed for pediatrics, gynecology, infectology, nutrition or psychology, according to the particular needs of each patient,” according to the company.

“This model benefits the affiliates and policyholders of EPS Sura, Complementary Plan, ARL Sura and Health Policies, and began in Antioquia on May 18.

“It will gradually be extended to the other cities where Seguros Sura Colombia has a presence, through the ‘Salud en Casa’ home-care model or through agreements with other home health service providers.”

Seguros Sura Colombia also processes 600 samples daily (25,000 tests to date) to detect possible Covid-19 infections -- either from patients driving to Sura locations or else at home. The company also is racking-up 9,000 related home-health services daily through virtual care and telecare services, according to the company.


Antioquia Governor Aníbal Gaviria Correa on May 20 hailed leadership by the “LivingLab-Telemedicina” patient-contact-and-testing center here in the continuing struggle to detect, contain and overcome Coronavirus.

“LivingLab-Telemedicine is developing as one of the greatest successes in Antioquia in confronting the Coronavirus contingency,” Governor Gaviria said following a personal visit to the lab.

“This, in a way, is a hospital not only for the present but also for the future. Here we have the functions of promotion and prevention, but also, especially, everything related to telehealth and telemedicine, which has been absolutely key to containment of Covid-19,” he added.

To date, the lab and its 200 health professionals have dealt with more than 200,000 calls from Antioquian citizens worried about suspected or possible cases of contagion, along with related concerns about mental health problems arising from the pandemic. 

“One of the keys to the [relatively low rates of contagion] that Antioquia has obtained has been telemedicine and, in this initiative, the University of Antioquia, the LivingLab, other universities in the city, the EPS [health-insurance networks] and the government of Antioquia are integrated,” the Governor said.

Antioquia Health Secretary Lina María Bustamante Sánchez added that the LivingLab-Telemedicine center not only screens initial calls from concerned citizens, but also refers patients with likely contagion for follow-up testing, diagnosis and treatment services.


Right on the heels of Colombia President Ivan Duque’s new announcement that Colombia will launch alternating-shifts of physical/virtual school and university education in August, Medellin Education Secretary Alexandra Agudelo Ruiz unveiled a record-setting COP$6.2 trillion (US$1.6 billion) budget for the coming school year.

If the Medellin City Council gives approval -- following initial Council debate May 27 and a scheduled final vote on May 31 -- then Medellín would have the highest investment in public education in its history, according to the Mayor’s Office.

“For primary, secondary and middle [high-school] levels, a budget of COP$5.3 trillion [US$1.4 billion] is projected,” plus hundreds of billions of additional pesos for Medellin’s three public universities, the Office added.

The proposed boost in education funding is core to Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero’s development plan, which also includes further funding and promotion of Medellin as the “Software Valley” of Colombia, according to the Mayor’s Office.

“The figure contemplated in the education budget is historic -- 19% higher than the previous budget,” Secretary Agudelo said.

The budget hike will “strengthen attention to early childhood, curricular transformation, bilingualism, broader access, coverage and permanence, teacher training and physical and technological infrastructure,” she added.


Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero announced May 20 that shopping centers in Medellin gradually will reopen starting June 1 – right on the heels of President Ivan Duque’s May 19 announcement about Colombia’s transition from Covid-19 “national quarantine” to more city-specific “health emergency” status from June 1 to August 31.

“The openings will be staggered according to the level of risk that each establishment may have,” according to Mayor's official press announcement.

“In order to continue with the economic reactivation, and to avoid the loss of thousands of jobs in the city, Medellín Mayor Daniel Quintero Calle confirmed that from June 1 shopping centers will reopen when the period of ‘smart isolation’ begins as announced by President Iván Duque,” according to the Mayor’s office.

“For this process, a platform will be enabled with which a gradual and safe reopening will be coordinated, guaranteeing an adequate capacity inside the shopping centers and allowing a rapid tracking of [potentially] affected persons and their possible contacts in the event of a contagion.”

“For some time we have been preparing a platform thinking about the arrival of this alternative,” Mayor Quintero added.

“We will have a platform that allows a safe reopening of shopping centers. We have differentiated them by risk levels and based on this risk level, they will gradually enter into operation.”

On another front, Quintero announced the start-up of the “Medellín Me Cuida Hogares” home-care strategy, “with which the Mayor's Office will bring technology to more than 100,000 homes to reduce the chances that at-risk populations or Covid-19 patients may require [hospital] intensive care,” according to the press bulletin.

The Mayor explained that new health-care kits will be delivered to at-risk or already-infected homes. The kits will include a pulse oximeter -- which measures the level of oxygen in the blood-- a digital thermometer and additional measures such as antibacterial gels and face masks.

Meanwhile, the mayor announced that the production of relatively low-cost, Medellin-pioneered mechanical ventilators has already started with a first batch of 100. These first units will be employed in clinical trials and will be available for broader use “in case they are required” in future.


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About Medellin Herald

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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