September 26, 2023
Other Norms

Colombia Quarantine Extended to May 11; Manufacturing, Construction OK; No Passenger Flights Through May 30

Colombia President Ivan Duque announced last night (April 20) in a nationwide televised address that the current Coronavirus quarantine that had been set to expire April 27 instead will be extended another two weeks—to May 11.

Broader quarantines on vulnerable populations including school-age students and those over 70 will continue through May 30.

Aside from occasional emergency humanitarian flights, all international passenger flights will be banned through May 30. Even domestic passenger flights are doubtful aside from a few, potential exemptions, he added.

However, Colombia’s construction and manufacturing industries will be allowed to return to work – but only if following strict protocols to reduce the spread of Coronavirus infections.

Similarly, mass-transit systems in Colombia’s major cities (including metro Medellin) will begin a gradual return to normality — but initially will run at maximum 35% capacity to provide more space between possibly infected passengers, he said.

In addition, all mass-transit passengers must wear protective masks and maintain at least one-meter distance from one-another, he said.
What’s more, “we are not going to have inter-municipal transport except for the exceptions that were already defined by the Ministry of Transport,” which can allow mixed freight/passenger transport — but with reduced-capacity ceilings.

“Our first responsibility is the protection of life, health, but doing it hand-in-hand so that the Coronavirus does not end up generating an unemployment pandemic of poverty or recession,” President Duque said.

While construction and factory workers can return to work, office workers in construction and manufacturing will be required to telecommute via internet connections from home.

“Anyone who can continue to telework must do so to protect life and protect health,” he said.

Meanwhile, no mass-attendance events will be allowed. Bars, clubs, schools and universities will remain closed, but home-deliveries will be allowed from restaurants.

Vice-President, Ministers Explain Health Protocols

During the same televised address last night, Colombia Vice-President Marta Lucía Ramírez, Housing Minister Jonathan Malagón, and Transport Minister Ángela María Orozco provided more details on new biosecurity protocols for productive sectors and mass transport.

In many cases, workers will be required to wear protective clothing, masks and gloves, while disinfection campaigns typically will be mandatory at work spaces.

What’s more, manufacturers will require back-office workers to telecommute, Ramirez said.

As for the construction sector, Housing Minister Malagón added that a huge portion of this activity is in housing. “In the case of Colombia, there are more than 200,000 homes being built per year, the vast majority of which are already sold [to waiting buyers],” he said.

“There are 980,000 vulnerable workers that we have in the building sector, and if, eventually, the viability of their jobs is compromised, it would not only be from a macroeconomic point of view close to several percentage points of the unemployment rate, but we would start a tragic pilgrimage from formal employment to poverty, and that is what we are trying to prevent,” he added.

Regarding transportation, Minister Angela María Orozco pointed out that safe access to boarding/unboarding stations and terminals must be guaranteed, always respecting the minimum distance of one-to-two meters.

“Inside each [mass-transport] vehicle, there is a minimum distance of one meter between passengers. That’s what has led us to calculate that obviously the buses that are part of the mass transportation systems will not be able to carry more than 35% of their usual transportation capacity,” she said.

“It is also essential that each passenger wear a mask, and that is precisely why we are designing and, with the Ministry of Health, teaching citizens to make masks, as these are conventional masks, not the special masks for people who are in the health sector,” she added.

Health Ministry Sees Flattening Infection Curve

On a related front, Colombia’s National Institute of Health (“INS” in Spanish initials) announced April 20 that the national quarantine is indeed helping to flatten the growth curve of Coronavirus infections.

INS director Martha Lucía Ospina Martínez explained that a mathematical prediction model adopted by Colombia for the Covid-19 “has allowed us to understand what the cases or the maximum numbers that Colombia could have, what the dates would be and what would also be the critical moments” that could overwhelm the health-care sector.

Health Minister Fernando Ruiz added that person-to-person transmission of Coronavirus had started-out at a rate of 2.5 — that is, one person could transmit it to 2.5 more persons.

But thanks to the quarantine measures and other restrictions, the rate fell to 1.5 “and at this moment, as we are evaluating the quarantine, we are approaching 1. I hope we get below that number, but it is evident that we are getting closer,” Ruiz said.

As of April 20, the Health Ministry confirmed 3,977 confirmed cases of Coronavirus nationally , with 189 deaths and 804 recoveries.

Bogota has the most cases ((1,682), followed by Cali/Valle del Cauca (683) and then Medellin/Antioquia (363), according to the Ministry.

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