Coronavirus Quarantine to Continue Until April 27: Colombia President
Colombia President Ivan Duque announced last night (April 6) that the current Coronavirus general quarantine – initially due to expire April 13 – instead will continue for another two weeks, until April 27.
What’s more, persons 70 years and older will continue to remain in quarantine until May 30, while school-age pupils of all levels (primary through university) will continue studying at home until May 31, Duque added.
Exceptions to the quarantine include limited trips for groceries, drugs, banking and health care. Healthy workers at supermarkets, pharmacies, banks, hospitals, freight transport, rural transport, farming, food production, public safety, critical construction projects, city public transport, public agencies, social services and certain specially permitted others are exempt from quarantine.
“This decision is made based on recommendations and analysis by a team of scientists and experts with the accompaniment of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO),” according to Duque.
“We had initially thought that children — young people, university students — would be out of school until April 20. But given the effort we must make [to stem the threat of Coronavirus infections], we are going to extend those measures until May 31,” he said.
The quarantine not only restricts travel just for basic necessities– food, medicine, health care, banking — but also includes border closings, air travel bans, closure of most commercial operations, restrictions on public events, closure of restaurants, bars and nightclubs, and — in a growing number of municipalities — “pico y cedula” rules that limit all grocery, pharmacy and banking trips to one or two days per week.
Masks, Medical Equipment Production Incentives
On a related front, Colombia’s Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism (MinCIT) José Manuel Restrepo simultaneously announced that starting April 13, a new government program will accelerate the conversion of more factories and workshops to produce more medical supplies and devices.
This “entrepreneurs for employment” program initially aims to accelerate production of more than 20 million protective masks for the general population as well as more than 2 million surgical masks, Restrepo said.
The scheme will enable “a properly endowed health system that has access to medical supplies and devices, disinfection and hygiene products, [general-population] face masks, antibacterial gels, gloves, protective glasses, and specialized masks and protective clothing needed in the health sector,” Restrepo said.
“The government seeks to find potential suppliers and know their production capacities, then connect them with clinics, hospitals and other institutions involved in the care of patients affected by Covid-19.
“Likewise, we seek to identify barriers and needs that entrepreneurs require in order to advance in the production or marketing of such products, in relation to the procedures that apply to them, such as health records, access to raw materials or machinery and technology, among others.”
Entrepreneurs interested in participating in this rapid-development scheme can find more information here: http://www.mincit.gov.co/prensa/medidas-para-mitigar-impacto-del-covid-19/convocatoria-empresarios-por-el-empleo-2020 .
Mask Mandate Goes National
The mask-production acceleration scheme from MinCIT comes on top of an earlier, April 4 order by the Health Ministry that all people moving in and around congested areas in Colombia (including metro Medellin) must start wearing protective masks. According to the Health Ministry, examples include:
1. “Public transport systems (buses, Transmilenio, taxis);
2. “Areas where there is a massive influx of people (market squares, supermarkets, banks, pharmacies, among others) where it is not possible to maintain a minimum distance of one meter.
3. “People with respiratory symptoms: Risk groups (adults over 70 years, people with cardiovascular diseases, diseases that compromise their immune system, cancer, HIV, pregnant women and chronic respiratory diseases).”
In addition, “people with confirmed diagnosis for Covid-19 and their close contacts should not leave the place where they are carrying out their mandatory preventive isolation (14 days without exception),” according to the Ministry.
These Ministry of Health mask-mandates are in addition to a related order from the Mayor of Medellin requiring all passengers on the “Metro” rail, bus, aerial tram and streetcar system to wear protective masks as of April 7.
Treasury Ministry Expands Finance
On a related front, Colombia’s Treasury Ministry announced April 6 that it’s expanding finance totaling COP$12 trillion (US$3 billion) to micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises through the “Fondo Nacional de Garantias” (FNG, National Guarantee Fund) to help them survive during the current crisis.
“In this scheme, the employer may request loans from the financial sector with the guarantee from the FNG for up to $3.316 billion [US$842,000],” according to the Treasury Ministry.
“These credits will have a grace period of four months and a [repayment] term of between 12 and 36 months.
“In this way, the credits required by small and medium-sized enterprises to meet liquidity needs and to assume personnel costs, fixed costs such as rent, public services, among others and other obligations that must be met to maintain their continuity [will be] sustainable,” the Ministry added.
The program will provide government guarantees on 60% on the value of the loan. Companies — individuals or legal entities — with sales of up to COP$51.95 billion (US$13.2 million) can access this scheme, according to the Ministry.
The FNG scheme also enables companies to restructure their guaranteed obligations “without having to pay commission for the guarantee for the first year of the restructuring and will only return to pay [commission] from the second year.”
In addition, “employers may defer up to four months the commission payment they must make for renewals or annuity of guaranteed credits,” according to the Ministry.
“Likewise, if the loan guarantees are reaching their final maturity during the next four months and the entrepreneur does not have the liquidity to pay the last installment, then the employer can request a loan extension — and in this case the FNG will not charge commission until six months later.”
Transport Ministry Clarifies Inter-City Transport Rules
On yet another front, the Transport Ministry on April 5 announced that public inter-municipal transport services will continue to operate — but with certain restrictions.
“Companies that provide mixed passenger transport service [that is, both passengers and freight] and transport terminals must take into account exceptional operating conditions,” according to the Ministry.
“Inter-municipal road passenger service is allowed for the purpose of access or provision of health services and to facilitate the mobilization of [certain] people . . .
“Routes that operate in nearby municipalities or with economic or social interrelationships with major cities must continue to operate in the same authorized origin and destination sites, according to demand conditions.
“Services other than those provided in dormitory or suburban cities will be understood as those road passenger transport services which usually have coverage for a distance greater than 40 kilometers between origin and destination.
“Due to the exceptional nature [of the Coronavirus quarantine], inter-municipal services must compulsorily establish telephone information points at transport terminals, and optionally by other non-face-to-face information means such as a website or email.
“The terminals that are in urban areas defined by the Ministry of Transportation and approved by the Logistics and Transportation Center will remain open to serve the routes authorized for this purpose.”
As for inter-city mass-transport of passengers, “according to the mobility analysis of each district or metropolitan municipal authority, the enabled offer [of passenger transport] may not exceed 50% of the maximum offer in each system,” the Ministry added.