Thursday, July 9, 2020

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Medellin-based electric power giant EPM revealed July 8 that it has now spent 95% of its COP$1.2 trillion (US$330 million) budget for social and environmental projects in 13 municipalities around its 2.4-gigawatt “Hidroituango” hydroelectric project in Antioquia.

The massive spending is benefitting both people and the environment in-and-around the towns of Briceño, Ituango, San Andrés de Cuerquia, Toledo, Valdivia, Yarumal, Buriticá, Liborina, Olaya, Peque, Sabanalarga and Santa Fe de Antioquia, according to the company.

Among the latest beneficiaries are several more families getting brand-new apartments in the municipality of Ituango, where EPM also built an adjacent sports hall for recreation.

“In the seven years of execution of the social investment plan, numerous actions have been carried out to contribute to the improvement of [highway and bridge] connectivity, infrastructure in education and housing, health conditions and food security of the communities,” according to the company.

“To facilitate the connectivity of the region’s inhabitants, the Hidroituango project has contributed to the recovery of 1,218 kilometers of secondary and tertiary roads [as well as] bridleways [for horse- and foot-traffic],” according to EPM.

As for nutritional food security, EPM identified 3,785 families for “training, technical assistance, tools, supplies, and fertilizers to create and maintain their own crops. In total 3,065 hectares were intervened in 378 outlying neighborhoods to make these productive projects a reality,” according to the company.

“In addition, 2,300 families benefited from the ‘Maná Project’ via the creation of vegetable gardens and the establishment of productive ventures,” according to EPM.

In housing, EPM has delivered to date new residential units for 52 families and "contributed to improving the conditions of 659 other homes," according to the company.

As for education, EPM “contributed to the improvement of 71 educational establishments, which consisted of adapting classrooms, libraries, dining rooms, recreational spaces, among others, and built seven new training centers,” according to the company.

As for health, EPM “invested resources in facilitating access to formal health care networks, with improvements and equipment provided to a health center, provision of two ambulances and health care services for 12,463 people. The ‘healthy schools’ program also was implemented in 10 educational institutions,” according to the company.

As for public utilities, 5,489 more families were connected to natural-gas service, while eight aqueduct and sewer master plans were developed.

As for reforestation, EPM is restoring 24,530 hectares of vegetation in the Cauca River canyon to compensate for inundated lands behind the dam.

“The actions carried out include planting 70 native species typical of the dry tropical, humid tropical and premontane forests,” according to the company.

“In the 12 years that the project has been under development, EPM has acquired 24,530 hectares, mainly in areas surrounding the reservoir and areas degraded by the gradual actions of different economic activities in the municipalities of Buriticá, Liborina, Sabanalarga, Peque, Ituango, Toledo and Briceño,” according to EPM.

The land acquisitions “offset the impacts caused during the construction of the dam reservoir, main works, access roads and future operation of the hydroelectric project,” according to the company.

The 20-year reforestation and conservation plan includes “4,137 hectares of tropical rain forest, 13,860 hectares of tropical dry forest and 6,532 hectares of damp, premontane forest,” according to EPM.

“Ecological restoration actions not only include the planting of native species, but also involve the analysis of coverage, connectivity, landscape, flora and fauna [in order to] set feasible restoration goals to achieve recovery of soils, water resources and biodiversity.

“In the project’s area of influence, studies and monitoring carried out by biologists, agronomists, zoologists and experts in other disciplines have so far registered nearly 16 species of amphibians, 36 reptile species, 300 bird species and about 36 mammal species,” the company added.


Medellin-based PharmaCielo Colombia and its Toronto-based parent company announced July 8 that it won Colombian government authorization to cultivate 10 tonnes of marijuana with high content of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the psychoactive component of pot) and export of medicinal extracts.

The authorization “enables PharmaCielo to produce and deliver psychoactive extracts as part of the three-year extracts agreement the company announced in January [2020], intended for the German market,” according to the company.

“The government’s approval for PharmaCielo to grow, extract and export high-THC medicinal products is a significant milestone that significantly expands our product portfolio and complements our medicinal offerings of CBD oil and isolate,” added company CEO David Attard.

Henning von Koss, president of parent company PharmaCielo Ltd., added that “the truly successful medicinal use of cannabis depends to a great extent on managing its psychoactive and non-psychoactive properties. As we broaden our portfolio through 2020, we will be working concurrently with our customer base and the medicinal community to identify the appropriate formulations and concentrations of cannabinoids and terpenes to meet a variety of market-specific medicinal regulatory needs, and which are sourced from our proprietary strains that provide unique profiles.”

To date, PharmaCielo has developed and registered “30 proprietary strains in the national cultivar, including unique high-THC strains, enabling future production of a variety of psychoactive dominant extracts for medicinal purposes,” according to the company.

So far, PharmaCielo has developed 139 hectares of cultivation capacity in Colombia -- part of which is located in Rionegro, Antioquia, east of Medellin.

According to the company, its strategy is “focused on becoming a large-scale value-added supplier to large consumer packaged goods companies, pharmaceutical/wellness companies and other limited partnerships.

Its “phase one” processing and extraction center here can produce 24 metric tonnes/year of refined cannabis oil at a cultivation cost of Cdn$0.04 cents [US$0.03] per gram, thanks to a “natural and consistent 12-hour light cycle and temperate climate” as well as a “highly educated and skilled agricultural workforce” with “generations of experience working in the cut-flower industry,” a major employer in the “Oriente” region east of Medellin.

“Phase two” production facilities would enable extraction capacity to expand to 80-to-100 metric tonnes/year of refined cannabis oil, according to the company.

In its latest financial report, PharmaCielo posted a Cdn$6.8 million (US$5 million) net loss for first quarter (1Q) 2020, an improvement over the Cdn$7.7 million (US$5.7 million) net loss in 1Q 2019. The improvement came from a Cdn$494,000 (US$366,000) boost in gross revenues from sale of cannabis-derived products in early 2020, according to the company.


ANDI -- Colombia’s biggest industrial-commercial trade association -- announced July 8 that its most recent survey of 200 major companies shows that business liquidity is starting to improve thanks to the gradual reopening of various economic sectors during the current Covid-19 crisis.

During the height of the national quarantine and business shutdowns in April, surveyed companies had (on average) only 11 days of cash-on-hand to cover salaries, benefits, suppliers, taxes, overhead and outstanding loans, ANDI noted.

But thanks to subsequent, government-authorized exemptions to quarantines – paired with strict biosafety protocols – cash-on-hand doubled to 23 days in May and tripled to 35 days in June, the survey found.

“Government measures and the resumption of activities and operations have given companies oxygen,” said ANDI president Bruce MacMaster. “However, this liquidity survey shows that companies face a difficult situation. There are companies in big problems that require great support and even rescue plans,” he added.

The big improvements in liquidity seen in the latest survey “can be explained by several factors: a greater number of productive activities in operation, the reactivation of production chains and not only in isolated sectors, the rationalization of costs within companies, aid provided by the financial sector (grace periods, extensions, among others), national government measures such as the day without VAT [sales tax] and aid such as the payroll and ‘prima’ [mid-year worker bonus] subsidy, among others,” according to ANDI.

“As we have noted in previous versions of the survey, the situation in the business sector is not homogeneous. On the one hand, we find companies with a situation of marked illiquidity. This is the case of 20.6% of the companies surveyed, where cash-on-hand only covers between one and eight days to operate.

“Then there are another 10.8% of companies with between nine and 15 days [liquidity] and 26.3% between 16 and 30 days. Thus, 57.7% have cash to operate for a month or less.”

The survey also found that operating income declined for 72.8% of companies in May 2020 versus May 2019, while 20.4% of companies saw a year-on-year increase and 6.8% reported no change, according to ANDI.


The Medellin Mayor’s Office revealed July 6 that forest rangers in one of the city’s protected reserves confirmed the presence of Black Hawk-Eagle (Spizaetus tyrannus) -- the largest eagle in the city proper and second-largest in Valle de Aburrá.


Area Metropolitana de Valle de Aburra (AMVA, the Medellin metro area government coordinating agency) announced July 5 that pico-y-cedula shopping restrictions will continue for the entire month of July.

Starting Monday, July 6, people with cedulas ending in odd numbers (1,3,5,7,9) can venture out for shopping, banking and exercise, as well as on the following Wednesday, Friday and Sunday (see chart, above).

Starting Tuesday, July 7, people with cedulas ending in even numbers (0,2,4,6,8) can venture-out, as well as on the following Thursday and Saturday.

On Monday, July 13, a new rotation starts, so that people with cedulas ending in even numbers can venture out Monday (July 13), Wednesday, Friday and Sunday of that week (ending July 19), while people with odd-number cedulas go out on Tuesday (July 14), Thursday and Saturday.

The AMVA regulation applies to Barbosa, Girardota, Copacabana, Bello, Medellín, Envigado, Itagüí, Sabaneta, La Estrella and Caldas.

Senior-Exercise Hours Expansions, Religious Services Privileges

Meanwhile, Colombia President Ivan Duque announced July 3 that people 70 years and older can now exercise outdoors for a full two hours, three times a week -- exactly the same rule as for all other adults in Colombia.

The new liberty follows a July 2 court ruling that overturns a prior rule restricting seniors (70 and older) to outdoor exercise only 30 minutes daily, three times weekly. The court said that violates equal-treatment provisions in the Constitution.

However, the entire purpose of the rule for seniors was to avoid the exceptionally high fatality rates from Covid-19 since nearly half of all such fatalities in Colombia are those 70 and older, President Duque pointed out.

What’s more, those 70 and older contracting Coronavirus have a 40% chance of death – by far the worst fatality rate among all age groups, according to statistics compiled by the Colombia Health Ministry. That’s why the Health Ministry will appeal the court ruling to the Supreme Court, in order to avoid more deaths. Meanwhile, President Duque urged seniors to minimize outdoor contacts -- even though they now have greater outdoor privileges.

On a related front, President Duque announced July 4 that religious services will restart in Colombia in the next few days -- but with maximum attendance of 50 persons in any church, synagogue or temple. Face-mask and social-distancing requirements will accompany the 50-persons limit.

As of July 4, the Health Ministry had recorded a cumulative total of 113,389 Covid-19 cases nationally, with 3,942 deaths and 46,563 recoveries since tracking started five months ago.

Bogota is worst at 35,266 cases, followed by Atlantico (26,406);Cali/Valle del Cauca (11,671); Bolivar (10,134); Medellin/Antioquia (5,675); Nariño (3,740);); Cundinamarca (3,183); Amazonas (2,335); Choco (1,833); Meta (1,333) and Cordoba (1,019).


Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero and EPM General Manager Alvaro Rendon revealed in a July 2 filing with Colombia’s Superfinanciera oversight agency an eye-popping proposal that would dramatically expand EPM’s product-and-service offerings nationwide and internationally.

Already Colombia’s biggest single energy producer and Medellin’s single-biggest financial contributor, EPM and the city of Medellin now jointly propose that EPM enter into a mind-boggling array of businesses, according to “Proyecto de Acuerdo Numero 19 de 2020,” presented to the Medellin City Council and published by Superfinanciera.

According to the Superfinanciera filing, potential new EPM business lines include:

1. Participation in highway and subway infrastructure development. “EPM will seek to enter the infrastructure market for the construction of public service networks, highways and underground metro lines . . . taking advantage of an opportunity to participate in a market that will grow exponentially in coming years,” according to the document.
2. Commercialization of biosolids from wastewater treatment, including fertilizers.
3. Data marketing -- tapping its vast information-collection activities from all sorts of customers.
4. Production and/or sale of solar panels, wind turbines, geothermal power systems, energy storage devices, and customer energy-to-grid schemes (as from local solar- or wind-power generation).
5. Construction consulting on sewage-treatment plants; sanitary landfills, waste transfer stations and utility service networks.
6. Supply, installation and maintenance of home appliances; energy-saving lighting systems; water-saving kits; and energy-management systems.
7. Business-to-business and business-to-customer services such as installing, cleaning, repair and maintaining appliances; used equipment disposal; and advice on use of new technologies.
8. Tourist services at its numerous forest reserves and water reservoirs, including environmental education services.
9. Treatment and renovation of specialty oils used in electric-power equipment and transformers.
10. Maximization and monetization of EPM-owned lands that are no longer used for EPM operations. Intelligent repurposing of such lands not only could prevent illegal squatting and subsequent ill-use, but also generate new income for EPM.
11. Development of new lines of business via strategic alliances, investments in other companies, and creation of new companies -- in initiatives such as land management, construction of energy projects and water projects.
12. Use drones to deliver customer bills or other mail, as well as to monitor the status of electricity infrastructure.
13. Offer new products and services to third parties for any type of energy.
14. Offer different qualities of water for various uses.
15. Offer all types of combustible gases, different biofuels, electric recharge stations and home recharge installations for electric vehicles.
16. Expand offerings of information and communication technologies.
17. Offer shared services to companies, such as billing, hiring and payroll.
18. Offer technical services for upgrade of lands for irrigation, drainage and inundation protection.
19. Develop financing and insurance-related services for various projects.
20. Produce, commercialize, install, rent and/or operate solar panels or other types of distributed generation.
21. Market self-generation products and energy-storage systems.
22. Develop and supply energy-production systems for rural zones not connected to power grids.
23. Bring consultation services for energy efficiency (Energy Service Companies).
24. Offer advice and installations for district heating and cooling, as well as public-lighting services.

According to the Superfinanciera filing, entry into any of these new lines of business or partnerships mustn’t violate any existing debt/bond obligations that EPM has with Colombian or international financiers.

The filing warns that if EPM were to fail to comply with any of these provisions, then its debt contracts could go into “cross default,” which could harm all its other debt contracts and potentially trigger mandatory prepayment of debts that currently total some COP$13 trillion (US$3.56 billion).

In addition, failure to comply with existing debt covenants -- potentially arising from participation and investment in new lines of business -- could lead to prepayment penalties, loss of credibility with creditors, higher future interest-rate payments and stiffer future debt provisions, the filing warns.

None of the faculties conferred to EPM and the Mayor of Medellin through the proposed accord “can be interpreted or extended to decisions related to the sale of company activities, privatizations, mergers, spin-offs or operations different than modification of [EPM’s main public-utility] social object, nor for administrative restructurings that would suppose an elimination of administrative authority or loss of employees,” according to the filing.

“In development of these [new business-line] faculties, the Mayor can exclude activities that are incompatible or inconvenient to the commitments that EPM has subscribed with its financial creditors,” the document adds.

While the “Acuerdo Numero 19” document would indeed enable dramatic expansion of EPM business activities into new areas, the document also warns that corporate failure-to-evolve with changing markets could be disastrous.

“With the emergence of new technologies, the evolution of new tendencies in domestic public services, the pressures of markets and the greater demands of interest groups, public service companies [such as EPM] are obliged to widen their fields of action, or else lose their place and put at risk their sustainability,” according to the document.

Risks include “loss of competitiveness against other agents that are authorized to offer new products and services” as well as “possible obsolescence due to the lack of new products and services” and “possible deterioration in the value of the company and as a consequence, possible declines in profit transfers to the city of Medellin,” the document concludes.


Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero announced July 2 that the city has just added 1,000 more epidemiological trackers to help the city stem the rise in Covid-19 cases.

Simultaneously, Medellin debuted an on-line database and mapping program (see: https://www.medellin.gov.co/irj/portal/medellin?NavigationTarget=navurl://48b007fc8d7912ef960824275ea1cb7a ) so that citizens can see exactly where Covid-19 cases are appearing daily, along with total numbers of active cases, recoveries, hospitalizations, intensive care unit (ICU) capacity and continuing progress in adding more hospitalization capacity.

“We are doubling the number of people in the ICU every twelve days,” Mayor Quintero warned. “The graph [showing the rise in cases] will continue to rise because we are seeing the strongest outbreaks and our responsibility is to make [control] decisions and do them on time,” he added.

Currently the city has 507 ICUs available -- and on July 2, the national government donated another 50 Covid-19 ventilators to the hospital network here. In addition, the Avenida 80 clinic -- dedicated specifically to future Covid-19 patient care -- is now ready to start operating “when required,” he said.

Mayor Quintero also announced that he expects Colombia’s medical-device regulatory agency Invima to endorse clinical tests of the relatively low-cost Covid-19 ventilators developed in the “InnspiraMED” initiative by the University of Antioquia, the School of Engineering of Antioquia (EIA University) and Sampedro Medical Industries.

On a related front, Medellin will crack-down on irresponsible drinking-and-socializing behaviors that usually peak during weekends and holidays, he said.

The crackdown – which will continue until the Covid-19 epidemic eventually declines – includes a ban weekend/holiday sales of liquor, as well as police break-ups of group parties that usually ignore social distancing and face-mask mandates.

These measures are “motivated by more than 1,800 interventions to parties that the police carried out during the last [Father’s-Day weekend] holiday by order of the municipal administration, and taking into account that currently Medellín has 1,276 active [Covid-19] cases, with 890 recoveries, 102 hospitalized patients and 15 fatalities,” according to the Mayor’s Office.

Meanwhile, ICU occupancy at city hospitals has reached 19.7% precisely because of rising Covid-19 cases – about half of which includes patients from other departments outside Antioquia.

“Medellín has become a world example thanks to the use of cutting-edge [Covid-19 tracking and control] technology, the discipline of citizens and ability to anticipate the decisions of other authorities,” according to the Mayor’s Office.

“So far, we have gained time and made progress in economic recovery, while increasing hospital capacity, enabling the 'Avenida 80' clinic, continuing the development of [locally made, relatively low-cost] ventilators, and equipping the city with more tests.”

Nevertheless, “we cannot claim victory,” Mayor Quintero added. “We took the virus very seriously at first when others believed it was a simple flu, and now that a more difficult stage is coming, we will not let our guard down,” he said.

Unless citizens and businesses strictly follow biosafety protocols, then “this could lead to crises like those of other cities in the country. It cannot be overlooked that Colombia has already exceeded 100,000 cases of coronavirus,” Quintero said.

“Thanks to the follow-up that we do for each of the cases, we have detected that most of the people who are in an ICU today did not take care of themselves, did not recognize the symptoms, never called the ‘123’ [emergency hot-line] and allowed the disease to worsen,” he added.

From now on, all citizens should contact the “123” hotline even if they have only mild symptoms, or if they have contacted their “EPS” health-care/insurance network to report any symptoms, Quintero added.


The Medellin Mayor’s Office announced July 1 that it is intensifying biosafety inspections and shutdowns of retail outlets that fail to comply with strict controls designed to thwart Covid-19 infections.

Meanwhile, the Area Metropolitana de Valle de Aburra (AMVA, the Medellin metro government coordinating agency) announced June 30 that “pico y cedula” restrictions will continue on Friday, July 3 – Colombia’s second of three scheduled tax-free shopping days.

This means that in our metro area – including Barbosa, Copacabana, Bello, Medellín, Envigado, Itagüí, Sabaneta, La Estrella and Caldas -- only people with cedulas ending in even-numbers (0,2,4,6,8) can go out shopping on July 3.

On a related front, Colombia President Ivan Duque announced June 29 that shopping for home appliances, computers and cell phones at large-format stores -- on July 3 as well as subsequent tax-free shopping days -- must be done via internet rather than in-person, to avoid dangerous overcrowding. Pickup and delivery of such items also must be staggered over subsequent days in order to avoid overcrowding that otherwise could cause a spike in coronavirus infections, President Duque added.

According to the Medellin Mayor’s Office, “during the coronavirus contingency, 193 establishments have been visited to verify compliance with biosafety protocols” and “27% of the establishments have received closure measures until they apply corrective measures and comply with the [biosafety] norms.”

Medellin Health Secretary Andree Uribe added that special precautions must be taken for the upcoming tax-free sales days.

“It is very important to bear in mind that this process is one of co-responsibility, where citizens carry out all biosecurity measures such as hand washing, social distancing and the use of masks, and the retailers guarantee [biosafety compliance] in the interior [of the store], even when the capacity is 35%, which we have put as maximum for the entrance to the establishments,” she said.

Stores also must comply with Decree 0573 of 2020, which requires entry-and-exit controls along with data capture on every person visiting, which subsequently must be uploaded to the “Medellín Me Cuida” computerized data platform that aids contact-tracing and Covid-outbreak-avoidance.

As for shoppers, the Health Secretary urges people to “wear comfortable garments that are easy to clean and disinfect, avoid using accessories on your hands that make hygiene difficult, make frequent use of antibacterial gels, do not touch your face, avoid constantly adjusting your face mask and remember that social distancing is key, since using only the mask is not enough when the contact is close.

“Upon arrival at the store, verify that the establishment complies with protocols to enter, [including] requests for cedula and ['Medellin Me Cuida'] registration, temperature taking, shoe cleaning, disinfection of hands, close access to sinks, access control to avoid accumulation people inside and good ventilation. If you identify long lines or accumulation of people inside, [then] avoid entering.

“When you get home, remove your shoes, take off your clothes and wash them separately. Take a shower and disinfect the items you purchased.

“In the following days, be very alert to any symptoms and report them immediately. Also, continue to avoid close contacts,” the Health Secretary added.


Antioquia Acting Governor Luis Fernando Suárez announced June 30 that another 130 intensive care unit (ICU) beds will debut in Antioquia by July 11 to handle a potential future surge of critical Covid-19 victims.

The latest expansion is part of a plan to have at least 909 ICU beds available over the coming weeks, with a peak demand seen possibly emerging at end-July or early-August, he said.

While Medellin specifically and Antioquia generally currently have spare ICU capacity for critical Covid-19 cases, “we must say that the days to come are very difficult because the pandemic is in full swing and every day we have a greater number of infected people, and every day human lives are lost,” Suárez warned.

Today, about half of the Covid-19 patients in Medellin ICU’s aren’t from Antioquia, but rather from neighboring Choco department, Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero noted. Likewise, available ICU’s throughout Antioquia “are for Colombians” and not just for local people, Suárez added.

While 42% of ICU beds are now occupied in Antioquia, “with the opening of these new ICUs that percentage will drop,” Suárez explained.

“Our initial inventory of ICU beds was 480, of which 240 were left exclusively for Covid patients, and this morning [June 30], 64 of them were in use,” he added.

While Antioquia has suffered 25 fatalities from Covid-19 so far this year, “the numbers will continue to increase,” Suárez warned. As a result, aside from boosting ICU capacity, “everyone should take the best decision to protect oneself adequately, by washing hands, wearing face masks, and maintaining social distance,” he said.

Meanwhile, as of June 30, Colombia’s Health Ministry had recorded a nationwide cumulative total of 97,946 cases of Covid-19 since tracking started five months ago.

Bogota continues to have the most cases at 30,017, followed by Atlantico (23,360); Cali/Valle del Cauca (9,974 ); Bolivar (9,116); Antioquia (4,442); Nariño (3,443); Cundinamarca (2,709); Amazonas (2,299); Choco (1,544); Sucre (1,255); and Meta (1,250), according to the Health Ministry.

While Bogota Mayor Claudia Lopez has continued to criticize Colombia President Ivan Duque for allegedly insufficient deliveries of more ventilators for future Covid-19 critical cases, ironically it's Mayor Lopez that has been the slowest among all big-city Colombian mayors to seek out and buy ventilators on their own account -- beyond what the national government is already providing.

For example: Colombia Health Minister Fernando Ruiz pointed out in a nationally televised broadcast on June 29 that Cali/Valle del Cauca mayors and health officials have recently purchased 300 ventilators in addition to the ventilators provided by the federal government. Cundinamarca mayors likewise bought another 152 ventilators, while Medellin and Antioquia bought 130 and Córdoba 107. Yet over the same time, Bogotá bought only 73 ventilators on its own account.

What’s more -- contradicting the constant complaints from Bogota Mayor Lopez -- the Colombian government on June 30 just delivered another 305 ventilators to Bogota -- a month ahead of schedule. So, as a result, Bogota now has 430 of the 722 ventilators that the national government has committed to giving to Bogotá between now and August, Health Minister Ruiz pointed out. What's more, Bogota is getting far more ventilators from the federal government than any other city in Colombia.

In addition, if Bogota suffers an exceptionally big surge in critical Covid-19 cases in the coming weeks, then the Health Ministry will accelerate delivery of even more ventilators to Bogota, Ministry Ruiz added.

Thanks to this new surge of ventilator deliveries -- and promises of more to come -- Mayor Lopez announced July 1 that she has decided to withdraw her previous demand that President Duque should authorize Bogota to reimpose in July the extreme quarantine measures earlier imposed nationwide in March and April.


Colombia’s Health and Transport Ministers on July 1 unveiled long-awaited aviation biosecurity protocols – hoping to spur more economic recovery, but also aiming to minimize Covid-19 infections for all future domestic passenger flights.

However, mayors and departmental governors get the final say on whether and when to allow any flights, according to the new protocol.

Neither Medellin's international airport at Rionegro nor the downtown Olaya Herrera airport in Medellin will allow any flights until all mayors in the metropolitan area agree that it's safe to restart -- even on a "pilot" test basis, as Antioquia Acting Governor Luis Fernando Suárez announced June 30.

Any future flights to or from Medellin's airports -- if approved by mayors here -- would be restricted to origin cities with very low levels of Covid-19 incidence, such as Pereira, Manizales, Armenia or Bucaramanga, he said.  Governor Suárez added that flights to areas with high incidence of Covid-19 such as Cali, Barranquilla, Cartagena or Bogotá are absolutely out-of-the-question.

“The biosecurity protocol for the prevention of Covid-19, prepared by Civil Aeronautics and authorized by the Ministry of Health and Social Protection in Resolution 1054 of June 27, 2020, establishes the measures that must be adopted for the operation of the airports and airlines, from the arrival of the passenger to the air terminals of the city of origin until their disembarkation and departure at the destination,” according to the official July 1 press bulletin from Colombia's Health and Transport Ministries.

“In the technical meetings and analyses prior to issuing the protocol, the international experiences of organizations such as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the Airports Council International (ACI), the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Latin American Civil Aviation Commission (CLAC), the Latin American and Caribbean Association of Air Transport (ALTA), as well as those of civil aviation authorities from China, Canada, South Korea were included. Concepts from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) were also taken into account,” according to the joint statement.

The new protocol includes many restrictions:

1. Passengers must arrive two hours maximum before the scheduled time of their flight, and with their electronic check-in ready, to avoid delays and congestion.

2. For exceptional cases of passengers who have not been able to check in previously, they will be allowed to enter and will be sent to the airline’s ticket module.

3. Passengers should only carry personal luggage, bags or small backpacks that can be kept under the passenger seat. The rest of the luggage must be sent to the baggage compartment in the plane.

4. It will be recommended to use the ‘CoronApp-Colombia’ application for all people entering the country's airports, with all the data completed. This allows the authorities to have information on the passengers about their health condition.

5. Only passengers and those who work in the terminals will be allowed to enter.

6. Body temperature measurement will be employed on all people entering an airport and on arrival of flights. Thermometers that do not involve physical contact will be used.

7. All persons, without exception, passengers and workers who are in an airport must use personal protection elements – that is, face masks.

8. Once passenger identities and boarding passes have been verified, they should immediately go to the boarding lounges, in order to avoid crowds from forming.

9. Those responsible for operating airports must disinfect and clean all areas, boarding rooms, public areas, among others, as established by biosafety protocols.

10. Boarding will not begin until the aircraft is fully ready for passengers to enter.

11. All airport users, crews and employees are obliged to respect the physical distance of two meters in areas such as counters, scanners and in the lines for boarding aircraft.

12. Inside the aircraft, no service will be provided on board, and travelers will be asked not to use on-board entertainment systems such as screens, mobile phones, among others. If possible, aircraft toilets should not be used.

13. Passengers and crew will wear face masks at all times during the flight. Likewise, passengers must remain seated during the flight.

14. Upon landing, the flight attendant will instruct passengers to disembark in an orderly and row-based manner.

15. All passengers must report to their EPS [health provider/insurance network] and to the airline if, during the 14 days after their flight, they present symptoms that coincide with Covid-19 disease.


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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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