Wednesday, October 28, 2020

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Area Metropolitana del Valle de Aburra (AMVA) – the regional coordinating agency for Medellin metro governments – announced May 8 a new rotation schedule for “pico y cedula” shopping trips starting May 11 and then  another, new rotation on May 18.

As a result, people with Colombia cedula numbers ending in 7 or 8 can venture out on Monday, May 11, while people with cedulas ending in 9 and 0 can venture out Tuesday, May 12, with successive day/number rotations according to the AMVA chart (see above).

The "pico y cedula" regulation aims to reduce potential for Coronavirus cross-contamination in otherwise-crowded supermarkets, pharmacies, banks and -- starting May 11 -- certain other quarantine-exempt locations during the national Coronavirus crisis. Workers in quarantine-exempt industries that meet biosafety protocols and also are registered with the "Medellin Me Cuida" program aren't limited by "pico y cedula," according to AMVA.

Then, on Monday, May 18, a new rotation series starts, with cedulas ending in 2 or 3 authorized for shopping trips on that Monday, while people with cedulas ending in 4 or 5 can venture out on Tuesday, May 19, and then successive numbers/days (see chart above).

The “pico y cedula” restriction applies to Medellin, Barbosa, Itagüí, Caldas, Sabaneta, La Estrella, Envigado, Bello, Copacabana and Girardota, according to AMVA.

Under new Colombia government regulations taking effect May 11, “pico y cedula” gives people new options to go to bookstores, office-supply stores, hardware stores, pet stores, paint stores, glass stores, lumber suppliers, locksmiths, vehicle repairs and inspection stations, in addition to existing permissions for grocery, banking, clinic and pharmacy trips.

Colombia’s Transport Ministry announced May 5 that -- following consultations with local Mayors -- vehicle repair shops and auto-parts stores will be the next economic sectors to be freed from Coronavirus quarantines.

“Based on the requests and evaluations of the municipal Mayors, the [Transport Ministry’s] Logistics and Transportation Center will approve the establishments that will be able to operate,” according to the Ministry.

“All establishments must comply with biosafety protocols in the framework of the fight against the pandemic derived from Covid-19. Employees must carry out their activities with the respective [biosafety rules] and good biosecurity practices.”

Any exemption from quarantine “must be done in compliance with the special biosecurity protocols established by the Ministry of Health and Social Protection," according to the Ministry.

“Each Mayor’s office would receive a petition from each of the establishments, which must demonstrate their ability to comply with biosafety protocols and show proof of being legally constituted, that is, they must have a Commercial Registry before the respective Chamber of Commerce.

“The mayoralties will analyze the operating conditions of these establishments according to the particular needs and the control capacity of the sanitary emergency of each municipality, and will send the request to the [Transport Ministry’s] Logistics and Transportation Center for approval of operation of the establishments.”

The transport modes to be used by employees to-and-from these shops “should be taken into account, among other aspects, to minimize the concentrations of people and the peculiarities of each territory,” according to the Ministry.

Municipalities “will be in charge of regulating the activities of said establishments, as well as verifying that they comply with the sanitary standards required once they are serving the public.

“Once the respective Mayor’s office reviews the sufficiency, quality and veracity of the information sent in the petition by the establishments, that office will proceed to apply [for approval] to the Logistics and Transport Center . . .

“Subsequently, the Logistics and Transportation Center will review the registration of information and documentation by the territorial authorities, and will approve or reject the operation of the proposed establishments.

“The gradual reopening of vehicle maintenance workshops will reinforce the optimal operation of cargo and passenger transport vehicles -- included in the exceptions to the mandatory preventive isolation measure -- since they are the ones who ensure food supply and mobilization. of authorized persons throughout the country, as well as supplies and articles for health during the days of the emergency,” the Ministry added.

Medellin Mayor Cites Construction Sector Opportunities

On a related front, Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero in a May 4 “virtual” meeting with business trade group Camacol Antioquia revealed new opportunities arising -- thanks in part to “positive” experiences so-far with the reopening of construction and manufacturing sectors here.

Novel control-and-identification technologies and the use of “Big Data” are helping Medellin to reopen many companies and jump-start employment, via the pioneering “Medellin Me Cuida” computerized registration platform that helps to minimize risks of Coronavirus infections, he explained.

“With the reopening and everything we are safer than we were a week ago, because today we have companies that presented biosafety protocols, something that we did not have before. Even those companies previously exempt [from quarantines] presented a security protocol. Only 9,000 companies have not [yet] done so,” Quintero revealed.

“It is not because of our slowness [to help ensure a relatively safe economic reopening] that a job is lost in Antioquia. Destroying a job is very easy, creating it is very difficult. We do not want to close again -- and for this we know that it is so important that citizens respect the rules and that businessmen respect the rules, as is the case of Antioquia, and that we civil servants creating dynamic and intelligent strategies that allow us to sustain this opening,” he added.

During the "virtual" meeting, Camacol Antioquia's board “recognized the city's progress in reviving the construction sector compared to other regions,” according to the Mayor’s office.

What's more, Mayor Quintero also highlighted huge new opportunities arising from key projects over the next four years in the “Medellín Futuro 2020-2023 Development Plan,” which foresees a COP$22 trillion (US$5.59 billion) budget.

“There is undoubtedly a [firm commitment] there to advance construction and drive construction,” Quintero explained.

“As a result of the conversations with Camacol, we approved or reflected in the development plan that some city areas that today do not have construction [underway], but that have public services, can be built making a modification even to what the POT [zoning plan] had been proposing -- as long as that happens in the next two years,” he said.

Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero revealed April 27 that more than 50,000 metro-area workers in manufacturing and construction already have returned to work -- following a pioneering business/worker registration system for addressing the Coronavirus quarantine crisis.

Passengers on the Medellín “Metro” train, bus, tram and cable-car system increased by 10% on April 27 -- more-than-complying with the national government’s 35% limit on public transit capacity during the Coronavirus crisis, he added.

The successful, partial restart of the local economy here came about “thanks to the measures implemented by the municipal administration in conjunction with other authorities to safeguard the lives of the more than 50,000 workers who today went out to resume their work -- and joined the 350,000 who since the beginning of the quarantine carried out their work with rigorous control,” according to the Mayor.

Companies that registered themselves and their workers on the new “Medellín Me Cuida” computerized platform “allows us to have a complete trace of where [workers] are, to which companies they are going, and in the event of any problem, we can [take preventive action] upon those companies or persons,” Mayor Quintero added.

More company and worker registrations will continue on the “Medellín Me Cuida” platform – not only for manufacturing and construction sectors, but also for other quarantine-exempt sectors including food and health, Quintero added.

Biosafety Protocol Measures

On a parallel front, Colombia’s Health Ministry highlighted new biosafety protocols for manufacturers that took effect April 27.

Under these protocols, reception areas at manufacturing companies must include “physical barriers in the area of receipt of invoices and correspondence” such as “a window that separates the person receiving from those who have correspondence,” according to the Ministry.

“It is important to guarantee the use of latex, nitrile or vinyl face masks and gloves, so that between the receptionist and the messenger the exposure is reduced, as well as having 60% glycerinated alcohol available at the reception in case the person who goes to the reception area does not have gloves, and inform the person who arrives that they must sanitize their hands first,” according to the new protocol.

“The disinfection of packages or items that are received is a key element, as well as the physical distance between workers. So, the location of [manufacturing] machines must be adjusted to ensure two meters of distance between workers in each department.

“In addition, machine operators must properly wear conventional face masks at all times and perform the hand-washing protocol on a regular basis -- at least every three hours -- and must not share the equipment with another worker.

“Cleaning the machines is another factor to keep in mind, as well as ventilating and keeping the material or supplies storage areas in hygienic conditions.

“For operating personnel, the guideline indicates the use of the respiratory, visual and hand protection (gloves) as defined in the Occupational Health and Safety Management System, according to the risk and the machinery used. As for work clothes within companies and factories, these must be changed upon entering and prior to departure for other clothing.

“Transport vehicles must be fully disinfected and the driver must have at least 60% glycerinated alcohol for frequent use in the vehicle cabin. It is recommended to stop using air conditioning in the vehicle and opt for natural ventilation, by keeping the windows open.

“Routine temperature taking [of workers] should be performed at the entrance and exit of the shift, at the beginning of the working day and at the end of it (or at least two times per shift) and each company must designate a person responsible for coordinating the implementation and verification of the protocol. In the event of a temperature detection of 38ºC or more, the worker must be sent immediately to your EPS [health provider network].”

As for interaction with clients and suppliers, “if there is a space for sale to the public, [then] interaction with customers should be contactless, leaving and picking up the products in a delivery area and keeping the minimum separation distance of two meters.

“As far as possible, the recommendation is to keep a supplier and customer identification record to serve as a reference in the event that a worker is diagnosed positive for Covid-19, so that contacts can be traced.

“Regarding the workers' shifts, the employer must agree on them in such a way that they are aligned with the biosafety recommendations. Active breaks and cleaning every hour are necessary, [along with] avoiding crowds in common areas, bathrooms and hand washing areas,” according to the new protocols.

Colombia’s Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism (MinCIT) Jose Manuel Restrepo added that to date, 20% of Colombia’s 96,000 manufacturing enterprises had already registered and begun implementing biosafety protocols -- as required by new regulations.

Intelligence, Information, Cooperation -- Not Demagoguery

Meanwhile, at a Colombia-America Chamber of Commerce (Amcham Colombia) “virtual” meeting April 28, President Ivan Duque praised the new biosafety protocols and other Coronavirus crisis-response measures undertaken by the private sector along with national, regional and local governments.

Duque stated that decisions for confronting Coronavirus crisis should be based on intelligence and cooperation, rather than demagoguery by those who “want to generate antagonism between social groups or delegitimize the voices and responsibilities of each other.”

Amcham Colombia executive director María Claudia Lacouture added that the groups’ member companies “want to recognize and thank you for the efforts of the national government to combat this pandemic in a responsible, timely and efficient manner.

“This effort has been accompanied by an extraordinary willingness of your cabinet and government officials to provide timely and adequate information,” including rapid responses to business-sector questions and concerns, via internet-virtual meetings, Lacouture told President Duque.

The Medellin-based “Covipacifico” consortium building the “Pacifico 1” highway between Medellin’s southern suburbs (Ancon Sur) and the Cauca River town of Bolombolo on April 20 unveiled details on construction relaunch -- tied to strict Coronavirus-avoidance protocols.

According to the consortium, “some of the measures endorsed by the ANI [Colombia’s infrastructure agency] and the [Health Ministry Coronavirus prevention] audit are disinfection of personnel, [safe separation distances] on buses, modification of schedules for the use of common areas, cleaning of vehicles and spaces.

“Taking into account that the national government ordered the reactivation of transportation and public works (Decree 531 of April 8, 2020), the Pacific Highway Concessionaire (Covipacífico), presented to the ANI and the other authorities the biosafety protocol to protect the health of workers, road users and the community in general.

“Said plan has been socialized by the national government and the Antioquia government with the mayors of the southwest,” according to the consortium.

Among the new biosecurity measures adopted for construction restart:

1. Manual and frequent fumigation of tools and equipment used in construction, maintenance and operation activities.
2. Installation of 12 points for disinfecting personnel, four times a day.
3. Realignment of 10-hour worker shifts mainly to ensure compliance with distancing measures.
4. Checking of body temperatures and vital signs of workers before they enter vehicles.
5. Mandatory completion of a symptomatology questionnaire before boarding buses.
6. Any sign of symptoms means mandatory exclusion from transport and work sites.
6. Disinfection of buses. 
7. Mandatory minimum distance between workers at work sites.
8. Mandatory use of masks, disposable gloves and glasses.

Colombia’s national infrastructure agency (Agencia Nacional de Infraestructura, ANI) announced April 21 the restart of 12 crucial highway construction projects in Antioquia -- thanks to new biosafety protocols to avoid Coronavirus infections.

“Among the 12 infrastructure projects that will restart works are ‘Autopista al Mar 1,’ which seeks to bring Medellín closer to the main centers of commercial exchange such as the Caribbean Coast, the Pacific Coast and the Magdalena River,” according to ANI.

“Large-scale works stand out, such as the construction of the second tube of the western tunnel [connecting Medellin with the Mar 1 highway to Santa Fe de Antioquia], which is 4.6-kilometers-long and has registered progress of 75% to date.

“Meanwhile, in the Pacifico 1, 2 and 3 projects, which will connect the capital of Antioquia with the Valle del Cauca, the coffee region and the southwest of the country, works such as the Sinifaná tunnel [part of Pacifico 1] are already in waterproofing stage.

“The Mulatos tunnel -- which belongs to Pacífico 2 -- and the Pacifico 3 highway project both have restarted construction works, while the Thessalia tunnel --the largest and most important in the coffee region -- has successfully completed [end-to-end excavation] last March, totaling 3.5-kilometers in length,” ANI added.

Other crucial restarts include the “Vías del Nus” project (already 61% complete) connecting Medellin and northern Antioquia to the northern Atlantic coast; the “Conexión Norte” project ( 55% complete) connecting the municipality of Remedios to Zaragosa, Antioquia; and the just-restarted “Magdalena 2” project, which includes a nearly complete bridge over Rio Magdalena at Puerto Berrio, Antioquia.

In addition, more restarts include the Antioquia-Bolívar highway; the “Transversal de las Américas” highway; the “Devimed” project between Medellin, Marinilla and Santuario [Medellin-Bogota highway], and the Girardot-Honda–Puerto Salgar “Tramo La Dorada” projects in Antioquia, according to ANI.

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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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