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Published in general news Written by May 28 2020 0

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.

Published in general news Written by May 27 2020 0

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.

Published in general news Written by May 22 2020 0

Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero announced May 22 via his Twitter account that three different types of malls will be opened to the public here -- under strict biosafety protocols -- starting Monday, May 25, as a run-up to the planned reopening of more malls starting June 1.

According to the Mayor, the three shopping malls – Oviedo (Poblado), La Frontera (Medellin-Envigado border) and Gran Plaza (downtown) -- will enable people to re-experience mall shopping, banned since start of the March quarantine.

However, strict biosafety controls will be enforced to avoid Covid-19 infections.

Besides mandatory use of masks and physical distancing by all employees and all shoppers, the biosafety protocols also will include disinfection stations, body-temperature-takings, data capture and limits on numbers-of-people at points-of-entry.

Personal data including cedula numbers and cell-phone numbers will be captured electronically in order to enable health officials to implement contact tracing and -- if necessary -- order individual quarantines in case of discovery of any Covid-19 infected person that might have come in contact with other shoppers or employees during the day of entrance into the mall.

Colombia’s new national biosafety protocol for shopping malls also limits total-people-access to 30% of capacity, so Medellin will follow those rules as well.

Published in general news Written by May 21 2020 0

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.

Published in general news Written by May 20 2020 0

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.

Published in general news Written by May 16 2020 0

The Antioquia departmental government revealed May 15 that eight local municipalities that haven’t had a single case of Coronavirus have just won special permission from Colombia’s Interior Ministry to reopen nearly everything.

“The municipalities of Caracolí, Maceo, Puerto Berrío, Puerto Nare, Puerto Triunfo, Urrao, Caucasia and Yondó can now implement their gradual reopening protocols,” according to the Antioquia departmental government.

The liberation scheme nevertheless continues to ban reopening of bars, discoteques, canteens or any mass-gathering events or areas, at least for now.

What’s more, the Colombia Health Ministry requires business owners to meet biosafety regulations including use of personal protective equipment, while customers likewise must wear masks.

In addition, 21 checkpoint-control sites have already been installed on highways at the entrance and exit of various municipalities here -- including the Medellin metropolitan area -- and along the main trunk roads of the department, the department added.

Antioquia Governor Anibal Gaviria added that to date, 114 municipalities in Antioquia have yet to record a single case of Covid-19. So, many more towns here likely have a good chance of winning Interior Ministry approvals for widespread business reopenings. Abejorral, Sonsón, Argelia and Nariño are among towns now waiting for approvals, he added.

Medellin/Antioquia Outshines Colombia

Meanwhile, as of May 15, the Health Ministry reported 14,216 Coronavirus cases nationally, with 546 deaths and 3,460 recoveries to date.

Bogota is by far the worst performer at 5,008 cases, followed by Cali/Valle del Cauca (1,598 cases), then Atlantico (1,493); Bolivar (1,146); Amazonas (1,003); Meta (940), and – remarkably, given its relatively huge population -- Medellin/Antioquia, with just 509 cases, six deaths and 391 recoveries.

What’s more, Medellin has a rate of only one Coronavirus death per million inhabitants, best in all Colombia by far.

Bogota as of May 14 had the worst record with 149 total deaths, followed by Cali with 61 deaths, Cartagena with 47, Leticia with 25 and Barranquilla with 24. In contrast, the city of Medellin had just 3 Coronavirus deaths, while three other deaths in Antioquia towns bring the departmental total to just six deaths.

Medellin Construction Projects Restart

Meanwhile, on May 15, Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero revealed that 40% of 80 municipal construction projects are now back in action, including Parques del Río, Metrocable Picacho and many crucial road projects, with 2,500 workers already back on those jobs.

On a related front, Medellin’s Health Department has now reviewed more than 85,000 Covid-19 prevention protocols filed by businesses here, of which 63,000 have already been approved.

Such protocols are mandated by Colombia’s Health Ministry and must be accompanied by registration in the “Medellín Me Cuida Empresas” computerized platform.

To qualify for reopening, the Health Department first checks to ensure “mandatory use of masks, provision of glycerinated alcohol for use by all staff, minimum [personal] distance of two meters in offices, cubicles, company restaurants, cafes, common areas, elevators, among others,” according to the Mayor’s Office.

“The main objective of our visits [to companies] will be to verify compliance with the national protocols, to identify possible risk factors and guarantee to citizens that the measures being adopted in the business sector allow control of contagion,” added Medellin Health Department secretary Andree Uribe.

ACI Cites More Foreign Investment Coming Here

On another positive front, the Agency for Cooperation and Investment of Medellin and the Metropolitan Area (ACI) announced May 15 that Medellin continues to enjoy relatively favorable status in the eyes of foreign investors.

In a “virtual” meeting with 70 Chilean businessmen organized by ACI and high-tech incubator Ruta N, these foreign investors “learned about all the advantages that the Antioquia capital offers for investment in the short- and medium-term,” according to ACI.

“In terms of investment, Covid-19 represents a great challenge because it challenges us to adapt and rethink our strategies for attracting and retaining national and foreign investment,” added ACI Director Eleonora Betancur.

“We see ‘virtual’ potential as strategic potential. To continue this path that we have traveled for more than 12 years, we have [to date] managed to attract more than US$2.68 billion and 257 investment projects from more than 35 countries,” she added.

Between 2008 and 2019 alone, Chilean investment in Medellin hit US$277 million in manufacturing, high-tech industries, commerce, leisure and entertainment, among others, according to ACI. Some of the most-recognized investments include those by La Polar (2011), Cryogas and Homecenter (2012), Protema (2015) and Co-Work Latam (2019), she noted.

Colombiamoda 2020 Goes Virtual

On yet another front, Medellin-based textile/fashion industry trade group Inexmoda announced that the 31st annual “Colombiamoda” fashion show here will move to the internet – from July 27 to August 2 (see: www.colombiamoda.com).

“In these moments of uncertainty that the world is experiencing, we are called to rethink and renew ourselves,” according to Inexmoda. “We adapt, and to support the fashion industry, we decided to bet on the realization of Colombiamoda 2020 while preserving its axes of knowledge, fashion and business through digital channels."

The “virtual” show this year will include:

“• Digital platforms for specialized fashion businesses with buyers from Colombia and the Americas;
“• E-commerce spaces to generate retail sales;
“• Digital fashion staging, featuring collections by brands and designers for sale in the ‘See Now, Buy’ Now format;
“• Lifestyle experiences together with brands that will excite us through virtuality;
“• Inexmoda-UPB Knowledge Pavilion that will offer open lectures to the public via streaming;
“• Online consulting and ‘Master Classes’ with experts from the fashion industry,” according to Inexmoda.

Published in general news Written by May 15 2020 0

Medellin-based XM – operator of Colombia’s national electric power dispatch-and-trading market – on May 14 announced that relatively low rainfall this year might require Colombians to take steps to conserve water and power consumption.

“Although it is true that the country's [hydropower dam] reservoirs are at historic minimum levels, the Colombian energy matrix has 17.5-gigawatts [GW] of installed capacity, of which 11-GW is hydraulic [hydropower], 5.1 GW-thermal [natural gas, oil and coal-fired], and the rest, approximately 1-GW, corresponds to smaller plants,” stated Jaime Alejandro Zapata Uribe, XM’s national dispatch center manager.

“This means that our matrix has a hydro and thermal [compensatory] composition that is complemented by low hydrological events.

“For the summer season of 2020-2021, it is necessary to carry out a permanent review of the evolution of contributions to the system, an adequate management of resources, monitor the evolution of demand and the different variables that allow us to attend in a reliable way the summer season. It also seems important to us to invite Colombians to make efficient use of energy and water consumption in their homes,” he said

According to XM, “in the short term, there are no risks in meeting demand. The reservoirs of the National Interconnected System [SIN] are at historic lows, due to the unusual reduction in rainfall.

“According to IDEAM [the national weather bureau] predictions, it is possible that in June and July 2020 there will be a deficit in water contributions to the system. There is uncertainty regarding the climatic conditions for the second semester and the summer 2020-2021.”

In the medium term – over the next two years -- “there are no evident difficulties, under normal conditions, in the provision of [power] service,” according to XM.

“However, extreme conditions of dry hydrologies or other unexpected situations could lead the system to a risky condition for the provision of the service in the following summer of 2020-2021,” the company added.

“Thermal generation above last-year’s average could be required for prolonged periods, which would require adequate resource management and sector coordination to respond to situations of water supply deficits,” XM concluded.

Published in general news Written by May 08 2020 0

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.

Published in general news Written by May 05 2020 0

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.

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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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