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Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero announced April 15 that local home-appliance manufacturing giant Haceb and local motorcycle assembler Auteco will launch manufacture and assembly of novel Coronavirus ventilator machines -- starting Monday, April 20.

Three prototypes have been developed in Medellin via a research and technology consortium organized by tech incubator Ruta N and Colombia’s national industrial-commercial trade association ANDI.

Coronavirus ventilators on the global market have been quoted as costing more than COP$150 million (US$38,000), the Mayor noted. But the locally produced ventilators are expected to cost a small fraction of that -- perhaps in the range of US$1,000 to US$2,000.

“The three prototypes, which are part of the '#InnspiraMED' project, were independently developed by Sampedro Medical Industries, the University of Antioquia and the EIA University, meeting all Invima [Colombia medical products regulator] quality and safety standards,” according to the Mayor’s office.

“This is going to allow us to save lives -- not just for Medellín and Antioquia, but for all of Colombia,” Quintero added.

In his April 15 announcement, the Mayor didn't specify exactly how many ventilators will be produced initially, the total expected forecast production, retail prices and commercial availability dates.  


Cemex Colombia revealed in an April 13 filing with Colombia’s Superfinanciera corporate oversight agency that it has just restarted all cement/concrete production and dispatch operations -- thanks to certain Coronavirus quarantine-exemptions newly issued by the national government this month.

“In particular, from April 13 to April 27, 2020, in accordance with the provisions of the exceptions contained in [government Decree 531], Cemex Colombia will supply construction materials and supplies for the execution of permitted civil works, such as transport infrastructure works and public works (which are generally established as a new exception), those related to emergency care and road damage, and infrastructure works that cannot be suspended, civil and construction works that their state of progress of work or its characteristics present risks of technical stability and works related to the production of food, medicines and essential elements necessary to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, among others,” according to the Cemex filing statement.

Among the currently exempted-from-quarantine construction projects: the giant "Rio Magdalena Bridge" at Puerto Berrio, Antioquia, according to Agencia Nacional de Infraestructura (ANI, the national infrastructure development agency).

“This mega-work has an extension of 1.36 kilometers and crosses the Magdalena River to connect the departments of Antioquia and Santander,” according to ANI.

This bridge – part of the 144-kilometers-long “Magdalena 2” highway project by the “Río Magdalena SAS Highway Concession” – is “recognized as one of the most emblematic works of Colombian infrastructure by the ANI and is already 90% complete,” according to ANI.

Continuation of construction is required because “abrupt stopping of the execution of this type of structure would generate risks in its stability,” according to ANI.

“In total, this mega-project consists of four functional units which will connect the municipalities of Remedios, Vegachí, Yalí, Yolombó, Maceo and Puerto Berrío in Antioquia, and Cimitarra in Santander,” ANI added.

Antioquia Government Coordinating Highway Construction Restarts

On a related front, the Antioquia departmental government announced April 13 that -- because of the new national government decree allowing crucial infrastructure projects to continue if the projects also meet new biosafety rules -- “departments and municipalities will begin to normalize or regulate how these procedures” will be put into effect.

Antioquia’s Secretary of Infrastructure added that “to date, 19 paving projects have been detained, 41 projects halted in the area of public services, and another 150 projects related to the municipal or tertiary road network” were stalled by the Coronavirus quarantine under prior government rules.

However, even with the new, more-flexible rules, any project construction only would restart “after a conversation with the mayor where it is being carried out,” according to Antioquia Infrastructure Secretary Juan Pablo López Cortés.

For example: Restart of work on the crucial “Toyo Tunnel” that eventually will connect Medellin to Atlantic ports via the “Mar 1” and “Mar 2” highways would get the green light only following compliance with new Ministry of Health protective measures for workers, as well as consultations with local mayors, he added.

“A ‘Works Reactivation Committee’ has been created in the Antioquia Infrastructure Secretariat, including Covid-19 [prevention measures] and which also includes the Health Secretariat,” López said.

“This committee will evaluate each individual work project, as each contractor will send its biosanitary protocols and its start-up plan to the Ministry of Health.

“Once it is found that these [biosanitary] protocols are being complied with, and that the audits of the works show compliance with the ARL [Colombia's workers-compensation regime], and that contractors are able to restart works, then, following agreement with each of the Mayors, a decision will be made about reactivation of the works--  or at least on some of their fronts,” according to Secretary López.

The Antioquia Departmental government and local mayors likewise will coordinate with the Ministry of Health on biosafety-rule compliance for the “fourth-generation” (4G) major highway projects overseen by the ANI, he added.

The Ministry of Health has issued “circulars with very detailed manuals for each of the functions or operations to be carried out, such as the transportation of workers, the protection and safety elements that must be employed [and] daily reports of the health status of said workers,” according to Secretary López.

“In addition to this, the Antioquia Department will have an external audit team accompanying the Ministry of Health to follow these projects, their supplier chains and subcontractors, in order to assess that everything is in compliance -- or if otherwise, then sanctioning actions” will be imposed.

 


The Medellin Mayor’s office announced last night (April 12) that the “pico y cedula” alternating-days individual permissions for grocery, medicines and banking trips are rotating today (April 13) through April 19, and then a new rotation starts again on April 20.

As a result, people with cedula numbers ending in 7, 8 or 9 can venture out today (April 13), while those with cedulas ending in 0 or 1 can venture out tomorrow (see chart, above), followed by successive rotations continuing through April 19.

As of Monday, April 20, people with cedulas ending in 2 or 3 can venture out, while cedulas ending in 4 or 5 can venture out on April 21 (see chart), then successive rotations continue through April 26.

The national quarantine is presumptively set to expire on April 27 (but might be extended).  As a result, it’s conceivable that “pico y cedula” restrictions in major metro areas in Colombia (including metro Medellin) might continue beyond April 27.

Bello, Sabaneta and Itagui also announced "pico y cedula" rotation changes last night, matching the new Medellin numerical rotations.

Meanwhile, other municipalities around Medellin also have had "pico y cedula" restrictions, but hadn't announced any changes as of April 12.


Utilities giant EPM and the Mayor of Medellin on April 12 generated more than COP$13 billion (US$3.4 million) worth of private donations – both in cash and also in food -- through a televised “Donaton por Medellin” campaign, aiming to help Coronavirus victims and especially poor families.

Among the first announcing support for the “Donaton” were Bancolombia (COP$400 million/US$104,000). Bancolombia also separately donated another COP$200 million (US$52,000) for a Coronavirus respirator-consortium research project here organized by Medellin-based tech incubator Ruta N and Colombia’s industrial-commercial trade association ANDI.

Medellin-based cement/power/highways concessionaire Grupo Argos pitched-in another COP$400 million (US$104,000) for the “Donaton,” while Medellin-based insurance giant Grupo Sura likewise donated COP$300 million (US$78,000).

Also during the "Donaton," Medellin-based supermarket giant Grupo Exito announced the donation of 20,000 bags of food containing 12 vital, basic items -- all for poor families affected by the crisis. Grupo Exito and its customers have been massively subsidizing basic food packages for poor families, pregnant women and young children for years, on top of the latest "Donaton" donations.

According to the Mayor's office, the biggest single donor late last night was Medellin-based electric power transmission giant ISA (COP$4 billion/ US$1.03 million), followed by Barranquilla-based national charity Fundacion Santo Domingo (COP$500 million/ US$129,000).

 Antioquia-based dairy cooperative Colanta pitched-in another COP$300 million (US$78,000) while banana-producer cooperative Uniban chipped-in COP$100 million (US$26,000).

The Medellin-based Une-EPM "Tigo" national telecom/internet company put in another COP$400 million (US$104,000) and Tigo employees added another COP$220 million (US$57,000) worth of food-bank donations for the poor.

Freight logistics specialist Distrimarcas contributed COP$100 million (US$26,000) while agricultural supplies giant Grupo Bios added another COP$260 million (US$67,000), according to the Mayor. 

Medellin-based international rock-star musicians Maluma (COP$200 million/US$52,000), J Balvin (20,000 food baskets) and Juanes (780 food baskets) also announced donations to the "Donaton," while Argos, Sura, Bancolombia and Medellin-based multinational foods giant Nutresa separately announced joint collaborations on more, massive food donations for poor families affected by Coronavirus crisis.

In total, more than 100,000 bags of basic food packages for the poor had been pledged or gathered during the “Donaton.”

President Duque Abolishes Home-Delivery Restrictions

Meanwhile, Colombia President Ivan Duque announced April 12 that as of the first minute of Monday, April 13, prior hours-of-operations restrictions on home deliveries of foods and groceries to quarantined people will be eliminated during the Coronavirus crisis.

Under “Decree 536,” the former 6:00 am to 8:00 pm restriction for home deliveries is eliminated as of April 13, according to the President.

On a related front, President Duque separately announced that “more than 100 medical products to attend the [Coronavirus crisis] situation will not have VAT [value-added tax].”

“Today we need to be more united than ever to overcome this pandemic, but also beyond today we have to be more united than ever to get our country moving ahead, our economy ahead, our jobs ahead, our opportunities ahead,” he added.

Deaths Soon Topping 100 Nationally

Meanwhile, Colombia’s Health Ministry reported that as of April 11, Colombia had a total of 2,709 cases of Coronavirus, led by Bogota (1,164); Cali/Valle del Cauca (479) and Medellin/Antioquia (253).

So far, 100 persons have died from Coronavirus complications (including one 90-year-old woman in Antioquia) while 214 persons have recovered fully, according to the Ministry.


Three prototypes of mechanical ventilators being developed for Coronavirus victims by metro-Medellin-based Sampedro Medical Industries, the University of Antioquia and the EIA University are now set to move to human trials following successful tests at CES University School of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Husbandry here.

The development teams are now preparing for tests on human beings and, subsequently, the start of production at two Medellin-metro manufacturing giants: multinational home-appliance manufacturing giant Haceb and motorcycle assembling giant Auteco.

“Advances like the one taking place today are possible thanks to [Medellin-born multinational bottled drinks maker] Postobón’s donation in the project,” according to an April 10 announcement from Medellin-based tech incubator Ruta N, organizer of the “#InnspiraMED” ventilator consortium.

“The three mechanical ventilators for intensive care units (ICUs) [for #InnspiraMED] successfully carried out preclinical tests in the operating rooms of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Zootechnics of CES University,” according to Ruta N.

“The three devices, which are a success thanks to the donation of Postobón and hundreds of people who have joined this initiative through the #InnovaPorLaVida and # UnidosSomosPaís platforms, have been developed in compliance with Invima [Colombia’s national medical-standards regulator] quality and safety standards. The articulation work between all the actors has been led by Ruta N and ANDI [Colombia’s national industrial-commercial trade association].

“One of the prerequisites for achieving success in preclinical trials was the development of in-vitro [laboratory-scale] tests by the group of anesthesia and critical care specialists at the San Vicente Fundación University Hospital, the Las Américas Clinic and the Pablo Tobón Uribe Hospital. These tests consisted of subjecting the ventilators to different clinical conditions with highly specialized simulators that evaluate their operation and, thus, be able to determine how safe they are for patients.

“With the results of the preclinical tests, preparations will be made to proceed with tests on humans, which will allow the devices to be definitively validated and go to the production phase that will be headed by Haceb and Auteco,” Ruta N added.

The three prototypes were designed for rapid scale-up for production, according to the consortium.

FLA Delivering Antiseptic Alcohol to Stores

Meanwhile, the Antioquia departmental government announced April 8 that starting today (April 11) its government-owned Fabrica de Licores de Antioquia (FLA) will start delivering bottles of antiseptic alcohol (70% pure alcohol) to local supermarkets.

“The product’s profit margins will be minimal for each of the actors in the distribution chain,” according to the FLA.

The FLA earlier produced 250,000 bottles of the alcohol to disaster-response agency DAPARD and subsequently to hospitals, clinics and public-safety agencies, according to the company.

“The main objective is to ensure that the greatest number of people access a product that becomes vital when taking aseptic measures and that contributes, to a large extent, to [Coronavirus] contingency control,” according to the FLA.


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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.

Medellin Herald welcomes your editorial contributions, comments and story-idea suggestions. Send us a message using the "contact" section.

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