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general news 210

Published in general news Written by December 31 2020 0

Medellin and Antioquia governments announced December 30 that a total quarantine will be imposed here from 8 pm Thursday December 31 to 6 am Sunday January 3 because of surging cases of Covid-19.

Acting Governor Luis Fernando Suárez Vélez pointed out that Antioquia is suffering about 2,000 new cases daily of Covid-19, flooding hospitals to dangerous levels of crowding.

Department-wide, Antioquia hospital beds are now almost 83% full, while Medellin is at 87%, Valle de Aburrá at 86% and the “Oriente” (eastern Medellin suburbs) at an astounding 96.7%, he said.

The total quarantine applies to all-but-essential workers and emergency situations. Residents can order food, medicine and grocery deliveries, or make emergency trips to hospitals, but restaurants, bars, pharmacies and grocery stores won’t allow personal shoppers.

More Vaccines Coming

Meanwhile, Colombia Health Minister Fernando Ruiz announced today (December 31) that the nation just inked a deal with pharmaceutical giant Janssen for 9 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine, on top of earlier deals with other companies for 40 million doses.

“This vaccine will be approved in the coming months by the FDA [U.S. Food & Drug Administration],” Ruiz announced.

The Janssen vaccine, unlike the Pfizer double-dose vaccine, requires only a single dose.

“The reality is that everything will be known with the analysis and data from phase 3 trials, which we are waiting for,” Ruiz said, adding that “this has been one of the lowest-cost vaccines acquired” by the Ministry to date.

People previously infected by Covid-19 and now recovered won’t be in the first phase of vaccinations, nor will people under-16 years old nor pregnant women, he said.

Military personnel, school teachers and people with comorbidities will be in the phase-2 schedule of vaccinations, he added.

Persons seeking vaccinations through their private doctors rather than through the government-funded, nationwide free vaccination program “must register on the [Covid-19 vaccination] platform to have a correct handling of the information and avoiding, for example, a double vaccination,” he added.

“Private individuals will be able to sell [vaccinations]. Surely in the second half of 2021 the countries that bought more than their population requires will be selling. We will have a second wave of vaccine developments, taking into account that there are currently more than 100 developments, and that will lead to lower the price and expand offers privately,” Ruiz explained.

Published in general news Written by December 14 2020 0

Medellin’s Environment Secretary Diana María Montoya Velilla announced December 12 the first-ever confirmed sighting of a Southern Beardless Tyrannulet (Camptostoma obsoletum, see photo, above), making it the ninth recording of previously unrecorded bird species here this year.

The bird, locally known as “mosquerito silbón,” was sighted in the Cerro Nutibara park, not far from the city center.

The Southern Beardless Tyrannulet, “a species never before registered in our city,” is native to Central and South America, usually found in semi-open areas and forest edges, according to the Environment Secretary.

“These findings are the result of protection and conservation efforts in this area, with which we guarantee ideal conditions for the fauna and flora that live here,” Montoya said.

“Among the ecosystem benefits offered by Cerro Nutibara is a barrier to urban expansion, support for ecological connectivity, climate regulation and soil protection,” she added.

The “mosquerito silbón" measures 10 centimeters in height, has grayish and opaque-yellow feathers and a disheveled forelock. It feeds mainly on flying insects and some fruits, “contributing to the biological control of insect populations and the dispersal of seeds for botanical renewal,” according to the Environment Secretary.

During 2020, 22 new species of wildlife have been reported in Medellín, of which nine are birds, “this being the year in which more wildlife has been recorded in the strategic ecosystems of the city,” the Secretary added.

Published in general news Written by October 19 2020 0

Spain-based Air Europa announced October 19 that it will resume nonstop flights between Medellin’s Jose Maria Cordoba (MDE) international airport and Madrid (MAD), Spain.

“As of November, Air Europa resumes its flights to Bogotá, Medellín, Caracas and Havana and increases frequencies to Santo Domingo, Quito and Guayaquil,” according to the company.

By year-end 2020, Air Europa will have nonstop flights to 18 destinations in the Americas, according to the company.

Initially, nonstop flights to Medellin, Bogotá, Caracas and Havana will be once-a-week until passenger demand rises, enabling more flights, according to Air Europa. As a result, twice-a-week service is foreseen for Bogotá, Havana, Buenos Aires, Lima and Santa Cruz (Bolivia), according to the company.

Covid-19 Insurance Provisions

Via a new insurance policy through Allianz Partners, “the Air Europa customer will have medical and hospital expenses covered in the event of a possible Covid infection, as well as the cost that could arise from the extension of your hotel stay or, where appropriate, from the pertinent quarantine,” according to the company.

The new policy “includes medical transfer and repatriation, and the cancellation, in the case of not being able to fly due to contagion, up to the limit established in the policy," according to Air Europa.

In addition, Air Europa “allows a free date change on all reservations made,” according to the company.

Published in general news Written by October 06 2020 0

Colombia’s national immigration authority (Migracion Colombia) announced late last night (October 5) that it has detected more than 70 international passengers infected with Covid-19 illegally arriving in Colombia since October 1.

“From October 1 to date, more than 70 foreign citizens have been inadmissible [to Colombia] for not complying with the legal requirements to enter the country,” according to Migracion Colombia.

Among the latest cases include a Covid-19 infected woman and her baby arriving October 4 on a flight from Cancun, Mexico, according to Migracion Colombia.

“Since the PCR [Covid-19 detection] test began to be required to enter the country on October 1, more than 9,000 national and foreign citizens have entered our national territory, and more than 70 foreigners have been inadmissible for failure to comply with the requirements to enter the national territory,” according to the agency.

“Airlines that have transported five positive cases for Covid-19 [are now facing] an administrative investigation, which could lead to a penalty of up to COP$12 million [US$3,130] for each one of the [illegal, infected] travelers,” according to the agency.

Meanwhile, Colombia’s civil aviation authority (Aerocivil) simultaneously announced October 5 that both Avianca and Wingo are now under investigation for illegally boarding several Covid-19-infected passengers on two different flights.

Avianca faces charges for illegal boarding of passengers on a recent Medellin-Bogota flight , while Wingo faces charges for illegal boarding on a Cancun-Bogota flight, according to Aerocivil.

New York Quarantine Restrictions

On a related front, Avianca announced October 5 that all Colombia passengers bound for New York now must pass new Covid-19 quarantine controls.

The announcement follows a New York Governor executive order restricting passengers from Covid-19 "high-risk" countries, including Colombia and El Salvador, Avianca noted.

"We recommend that passengers that can't comply with the quarantine [requirements] abstain from traveling," according to Avianca.

All New York-bound passengers from Colombia must now fill-out a New York Health Department form, available here: https://forms.ny.gov/s3/Welcome-to-New-York-State-Traveler-Health-Form.

“If you are entering New York state and have traveled from within one of the designated states or countries [including Colombia, then], you must quarantine for 14 days from the last day you were in a designated state or country,” according to the New York Health Department.

“Upon entering New York, if you are a traveler and do not have a suitable dwelling for your 14-day quarantine period, [then] you must find appropriate accommodations at your own cost.

“If you are a New York state resident returning from travel and do not have appropriate accommodations for quarantine, [then] please call your local health department: www.health.ny.gov/contact/contact_information/. For guidance on how to quarantine safely, visit: https://ny.gov/traveladvisory,” according to the agency.

 

Published in general news Written by October 02 2020 0

Aeromexico announced the arrival today (October 2) of its very first nonstop flight between Mexico City and Medellin’s Jose Maria Cordoba (JMC) international airport, having previously suspended service for the last seven months of the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the company, Aeromexico will offer three-times-a-week nonstop service between JMC (MDE) and Mexico city, starting immediately.

Meanwhile, JetBlue announced the restart of three times-per-week nonstop service between MDE and Fort Lauderdale, Florida (FLL) starting October 4. JetBlue likewise suspended international service since March because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Then, on October 7, Copa restarts flights between MDE and Panama City, Panama (PTY), with daily service beginning October 21.

American Airlines, Avianca, Spirit and VivaAir likewise have restarted international flights to and from MDE and U.S. cities.

Still unknown is when Air Europa and Iberia would resume international flights to-and-from MDE and Madrid (Spain), or whether Interjet will resume its prior service between MDE and Mexico City.

Published in general news Written by September 24 2020 0

Avianca – Colombia’s biggest airline – on September 24 announced the restart of four times/week nonstop services between New York, Miami and Medellin’s Jose Maria Cordova International Airport (MDE) starting September 28.

Simultaneously, American Airlines announced September 24 the immediate restart of five times/week service between Medellin and Miami.

Then, starting October 1, Avianca relaunches nonstop services to/from Bogota and Cancun, Guatemala City, Guayaquil, La Paz, Mexico City, Punta Cana, Quito, Rio de Janeiro, San Salvador, Santo Domingo, São Paulo, Santa Cruz, Santiago and Washington, DC.

All these flights had been suspended since the Covid-19 quarantine started last March.

Avianca’s very first international flight from Colombia in seven months departs MDE 10 am Monday, September 28, in an Airbus 320, arriving Miami International at 2:25 p.m.

Commenting on the restarts, Avianca airport director Juan Carlos Peláez stated: “Without a doubt, Antioquia is a very important destination for Avianca. We have our [aircraft] maintenance center here and from the José María Córdova airport we fly directly to national and international destinations.”

New Passenger Regulations

“• All travelers must undergo temperature measurements at terminals and wear face masks at all stages of the trip. If the flight lasts more than two hours, they will have to change the mask at least once,” according to Avianca.
“• Passengers entering Colombia will have to present a PCR test [for Covid-19] with a negative result no longer than 96 hours before boarding. Those who leave Colombia should consult the requirements according to their destination.
“• Passengers must report their health status in the Coronapp application prior to the trip, and during the 14 days following the trip.
“• 24 hours before the flight and up to one hour before, passengers must fill out the 'Pre-check-in immigration' form available on the Migración Colombia website.
“• Perform the check-in process on the airline's website or mobile application. It is suggested to print it at home or save it on your cell phone.
“• Arrive 3 hours in advance and unaccompanied in the terminal.
“• If you have symptoms such as fever, nausea, headache or body pain, or breathing difficulties, then you should not travel.
“• Check in advance the restrictions in force at the destination and prepare the necessary documents for the trip.
“• Constantly wash hands, carry and use antibacterial products.”

Published in general news Written by September 16 2020 0

Medellin-based electric power giant EPM announced September 15 that -- as expected -- it just received a second, US$100 million installment from insurer Mapfre to cover equipment-and-infrastructure damages from an April 2018 diversion-tunnel collapse at EPM’s 2.4-gigawatt Hidroituango hydroelectric project.

Combined with a December 2019 insurance payment of US$150 million, Mapfre has now paid EPM a total of US$250 million for equipment and infrastructure damages.

EPM's Mapfre policy covers up-to US$2.556 billion for Hidroituango infrastructure and equipment damages, plus up-to-US$628 million for lost power sales – covering only a small part of four years of lost sales that should have started in 2018 rather than in 2022 as now projected.

EPM continues to estimate that initial start-up of four power turbines will take place in 2022. However, it’s still uncertain when all power turbines at Hidroituango will begin operation, although the company expects to see further units start-up in 2023 and beyond.

The total of US$250 million in Mapfre payments to date “corresponds to what was recommended by the [insurance] adjuster, according to expenses and investments made by EPM in the recovery of the project,” according to EPM.

EPM "continues in the process of quantifying the damages, the replacement of equipment and the repairs of the project as it progresses in its diagnosis, design and contracting,” according to the company.

The Hidroituango project is now about 80% complete, according to EPM. Currently, construction “is in full swing, with about 3,200 workers on different fronts,” thanks mainly to special efforts to isolate and overcome earlier cases of Covid-19 that had temporarily forced isolation of many workers and slowed progress this year, the company added.

“Today the work is focused on the stabilization of caverns and galleries, the intermediate discharge tunnel, the stabilization of the rock massif in the upper part of the [water intake] gate shafts, the operation of the weir gates, the electrical substation, the maintenance of roads and monitoring the behavior of the reservoir, dam and spillway,” according to EPM.

First Generator Installations in November

Meanwhile, EPM revealed September 11 that it expects the first two generator units at Hidroituango to be installed by November 2020.

“The transformer cavern is ready and cleaned. Work is being done on stabilizing caverns and galleries,” according to the company. “In the powerhouse, demolitions are carried out in units 1 and 2 and at the same time the area is being stabilized to avoid risks.”

Once the transformer cavern is ready, “seven new transformers will be installed -- being received in November 2020 -- and then another 12 transformers in 2021,” according to EPM.

Integral SA Slams Blame-Gamers

Meanwhile, Medellin-based engineering and design consultant Integral SA on September 16 issued a public statement condemning assertions by the current EPM management and Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero that contractors and designers are to blame for the tunnel collapse that ultimately could cost EPM billions of dollars in lost power sales.

Below is the Integral SA public statement, in full:

“On the occasion of the recent events related to the disclosure of the [Hidroituango tunnel-collapse] report of the technicians of the reinsurers, and the successive statements and news disseminated in the media, Integral SA states the following:

“1. The Hidroituango project was conceived and developed by our company over more than 50 years, aiming to guarantee clean energy for Colombians. This project is one of our greatest reasons for pride. For the development of the project we have applied -- in the studies, in the design and in the consultancy during the construction -- the best engineering practices, in consideration of the magnitude and importance of the work.

“2. Based on a root-cause report contracted by EPM and also on a report contracted by the reinsurers to define the protections to be covered by the policy, suggestions have been made that Integral SA is possibly responsible or co-responsible for the [tunnel collapse] contingency. Said reports -- contradictory among themselves and with serious deficiencies in scientific and investigative methods -- have also given rise to statements with large amounts of speculation and lack of objectivity that do not contribute to reliably clarify the facts.

“3. The design methods applied by Integral SA follow the state-of-the-art in hydroelectric project engineering and have been validated by various actors in the project, including the author of the root-cause study hired by EPM. During the design and advisory stage, Integral SA never received objections from EPM or the international Advisors related to the designs.

“4. Integral SA responsibly and autonomously made a root-cause report and a complementary report, both of which contradict the conclusions of the report contracted by EPM. These documents were presented to the previous EPM administration more than a year ago and recently also to the current EPM administration. To date, Integral SA has not received a response.

“5. The obligations of Integral SA during the design and consultancy in the construction of the project are clearly defined in the contractual documents and contrast with the responsibilities that [EPM or others] have tried to assign to it, notoriously affecting our professional reputation and unblemished business history.

“6. Integral SA has the deepest conviction of having acted in a professional, correct and ethical manner in all the actions that fall within the project, always within the framework of its contractual responsibilities.

“7. Integral SA is fully committed to the completion and start-up of the project, which it considers to be the highest priority for the country in terms of risk mitigation, and for this it is willing to continue providing all its knowledge, obtained through 65 years of successful corporate history, both in Colombia and abroad.”

Consorcio CCC Ituango Rejects Claims, Attacks

Meanwhile, the three construction companies in the “CCC Ituango Consortium” -- Conconcreto, Coninsa Ramon H and Camargo Correa Infra – on September 14 issued a public bulletin contradicting claims that its construction methods and materials could be blamed for the Hidroituango tunnel collapse.

According to the Consortium, its construction works were undertaken “in full compliance with the technical specifications, field instructions and guidelines of the client EPM, which in turn is the main constructor in the development of the BOOMT [build-own-operate-maintain-transfer] contract signed with Hidroelectrica Ituango SA ESP and of which the Consorcio CCC Ituango is the executor of the construction.

“The reinsurers report -- recently known to us through the news media -- is one of the technical studies that has been carried out by the different stakeholders in the causes of the [tunnel collapse] losses. This report -- whose conclusions we do not share -- contains the findings of a group of technicians whose objective, we understand, was to establish the coverage of a policy and not the responsibility of the insured.

“The CCC Ituango Consortium has acted in a transparent manner and has the peace of mind that it has fully complied with its obligations: consequently, we have provided the information that interest groups and control entities have requested.

“To date, 25 kilometers of tunnels have been executed; more than 2 million cubic meters of rock have been excavated in underground works; 15 million cubic meters of rock [used] in exterior works and about 1 million cubic meters of concrete have been used, which have been defined by the designer, supervised by the controller and received to the satisfaction of our client EPM.

“The CCC Ituango Consortium and the more than 3,000 workers have been committed to EPM and the project to continue with the designs, technical specifications and adequate materials. In addition, we have satisfactorily responded to the different instructions and requests that we have received from our contractor EPM during the execution of the project.

“Departing from other discussions that do not contribute to the project, and after more than seven years of uninterrupted work, fulfilling our obligations and defending our values, we will remain committed while there are no impediments for the Hidroituango [project] to contribute to the development of Medellin, Antioquia and all of Colombia,” the group concluded.

Civil-Case Hearings Continue

Meanwhile, Colombia’s Procuraduría General -- roughly equivalent to the U.S. Attorney-General’s Civil-Case Division -- announced that its current investigation into the Hidroituango tunnel collapse so far has included taking statements from various parties. A preliminary hearing is set for October 21 on EPM’s COP$9.9 trillion (US$2.6 billion) “conciliation” lawsuit against Hidroituango contractors and insurers.

Parties to the EPM “conciliation” lawsuit include Consorcio Generación Ituango (Integral - Solingral), Consorcio CCC Ituango, Consorcio Ingetec y Sedic, Seguros Generales Suramericana and Chubb Insurance.

Published in general news Written by September 16 2020 0

Colombia Transport Minister Ángela María Orozco and Health Minister Fernando Ruiz jointly announced last night (September 15) that regular international passenger flights will start to resume on September 21 from Medellin’s Jose Maria Cordova (MDE) international airport.

Two days prior to the restart at JMC, Spirit Airlines on September 19 will debut its first regular international passenger flight to Colombia in six months – from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Cartagena. On the same day (September 19), Viva Air will debut the first regular international passenger flight from Colombia, from Cartagena to Miami.

Viva had earlier announced that it would include passengers from JMC on a connecting September 19 flight to Cartagena, then continuing onward to Miami.

“The initial international flights to be reestablished are to the United States, Ecuador, Mexico, Bolivia, Brazil, the Dominican Republic and Guatemala,” according to the Transport Ministry.

“The international air passenger reactivation is carried out after the favorable opinion of the Ministry of Health for the suspension of the restriction of entry of international travelers to Colombia, based on the current state of the [Covid-19] pandemic,” Minister Orozco added.

“The entire sector is committed to complying with the defined biosafety protocols so that this operation is carried out safely,” she added.

As with the operation of domestic passenger flights in Colombia, “a strict biosecurity protocol will be applied for the operation of international flights. Among these measures, it has been defined that for the entry of international passengers, the presentation of the negative result of the PCR test for Covid-19 will be requested,” according to the Ministry.

For travelers entering or leaving Colombia, “passengers must compulsorily fill-out, prior to entering the immigration control posts, the 'Check-Mig' pre-registration, which can be found on the website https://apps.migracioncolombia.gov.co/pre-registro/public/preregistro.jsf,” the Health Ministry stated.

That registration process “can be done 24 hours in advance and up to one hour before the flight.”

To enter Colombia, “each traveler must present a negative result of a PCR test no more than 96 hours before the stipulated time of travel” while “to leave Colombia, the [health protocol] requirements agreed by the destination country must be met,” the Ministry added.

“Passenger access to the airport will be up to three hours before the scheduled departure of the [international] flight.”

Airports must “maximize the use of available baggage carousels as much as possible to avoid [health-endangering] crowds. They must also assign specific carousels for flights from high-risk areas,” according to the Ministry.

“For short flights it is recommended that passengers not to use the aircraft toilets. In addition, if the flight is less than two hours, the cabin crew will not be able to perform [drinks and meals] service on board.”

What’s more, “the use of a mask is mandatory from the entrance to the airport, during the trip and at the port of arrival, regardless of the duration of the entire journey,” Health Minister Ruiz added.

“In the case of medium and long-duration flights (more than two hours) it is recommended to wear multiple masks and to replace them during the journey. For short flights, a single mask” is sufficient.

Passengers also must “stay in their assigned seat throughout the flight,” the Ministry added.

Published in general news Written by September 08 2020 0

Former Medellin Mayor Federico Gutierrez, Former EPM General Manager Jorge Londoño de la Cuesta and all eight former EPM Board members who resigned in protest last month for being ignored on a Hidroituango “conciliation” lawsuit decision issued a joint bulletin this morning (September 8) denouncing Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero for falsely claiming that they had “hidden” an insurance-adjuster’s report on the Hidroituango tunnel collapse.

According to the joint letter, “the affirmations by [Mayor] Daniel Quintero and [current EPM general manager] Alvaro Guillermo Rendon are absolutely false” in suggesting that the former EPM Board, the former EPM general manager and former Mayor Gutierrez “hid” the Advanta report on the tunnel collapse -- supposedly to protect Hidroituango contractors (see Medellin Herald September 7, 2020).

In fact, neither the former Board, nor the former Mayor nor the former General Manager had ever seen or ever received that Advanta report, according to their joint bulletin.

The supposedly “hidden” Advanta report “was undertaken by the insurer at its own initiative, at its own cost and for its exclusive use, seeking to obtain its own analysis of the root cause of the [tunnel collapse] problem, for which EPM [last year] facilitated access to all the technical information that they required,” according to the joint bulletin from the former EPM officials.

“The final [Advanta] report, with the results of that analysis, was NOT [their emphasis] provided to EPM, NEVER [their emphasis] was handed-over nor known by [former EPM] managers nor its Board of Directors, simply because they had no right” to obtain such report, according to the joint bulletin.

Signing the bulletin were former EPM board members Claudia Jimenez, Gabriel Richard Maya, Andres Bernal, Manuel Santiago Mejia, Elena Rico, Alberto Arroyave, Carlos Raul Yepes, Javier Genaro Gutierrez, former Medellin Mayor Federico Gutierrez and former EPM General Manager Jorge Londoño de la Cuesta.

“The decisions and the behavior of the Mayor [Quintero] and the General Manager [Rendon] are creating an environment of distress and uncertainty with unknown purposes or with veiled intentions, which is generating unimaginable damage, hopefully not irreparable, not only for EPM but also for our city and its future,” according to the bulletin.

“It’s important to mention that the only technical report contracted by EPM to establish the root cause of the [Hidroituango tunnel collapse] problem was by the Skava [engineering consultancy], whose conclusions provided the basis to present [recovery claims] arguments to the insurer [Mapfre].

“After the conclusion of the Skava report, the reinsurers, as well as Mapfre, told EPM that the damages were covered given the terms of the policy, including issues of design, construction and materials, even with the existence of possible errors. Mapfre, under these conditions and finding no evidence of grave error, made an initial payment [to EPM] of US$150 million.

“We vehemently call upon the citizenry, news media and authorities to act with prudence, with reflection, to be careful with information they receive and not be deceived, reiterating that we acted with rigor, respect for norms and in the best interest of citizens and clients of EPM,” the joint bulletin concludes.

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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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