Wednesday, June 3, 2020

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Following a nationally televised address last night (May 28), Colombia President Ivan Duque signed “Decree 749” listing 43 industrial, commercial, educational and personal exemptions from the national Covid-19 quarantine starting June 1.

In addition, Transport Minister Angela Orozco announced during the same televised address that international flights to and from Colombia would be allowed starting September 1. Left unexplained is whether, when, how or which of the origin or destination countries actually would allow such flights, or which airlines would participate.

Under the new decree, people 18-to-69-years-old can now perform outdoor exercise three times a week for two hours per day.

Those 70 and older likewise can exercise outdoors three times a week, initially for 30 minutes per day. But this could expand to at least one hour per day following Health Ministry analysis of local or national Covid-19 trends and risks, as outdoor-hours-expansions recently have been extended to other age groups.

In addition, people can use these outdoor excursions for walks with pets, but “only one person per family” is allowed, according to the new decree.

It's still up to local mayors to extend controls such as  "pico y cedula" restrictions for shopping and banking trips. Medellin metro-area mayors likely will make final decisions on "pico y cedula" extensions or revisions this weekend, prior to June 1. But the northern suburb of Bello, Antioquia has already decided to opt-out of "pico y cedula."

Meanwhile, departmental governors and local mayors must coordinate with the Ministry of the Interior on any other possible exceptions following June 1, which potentially might be allowed in certain areas, such as areas without a single case of Covid-19.

However, “mayors with the due authorization of the Ministry of the Interior may suspend the activities or cases” allowed in the list of exceptions.

For example: If any municipality suffers a new outbreak of Covid-19 that might be tied to certain activities, then the Health Ministry will send a report to the Interior Ministry, following which “the Interior Ministry will order the mayor to close the respective activities or cases.”

The decree also bans operation of “establishments and commercial premises for recreation and entertainment, bars, discos, dance, leisure and entertainment and games of gambling and betting, billiards, casinos, bingo and video game terminals,” as well as “gyms, swimming pools, spas, saunas, Turkish baths, spas, sports fields, sports centers, mechanical amusement parks and playgrounds,” as well as “cinemas and theaters, sports and group exercise in public parks and recreation areas, contact sports or practicing together.”

“Religious services involving crowds or meetings [also] will not be allowed,” according to the decree.

According to Decree 749, here are the 43 activities exempt from quarantine:

1.Assistance and provision of health services.

2. Acquisition and payment of goods and services. A single person per family will be allowed to carry out these activities.

3. Assistance and care for children, adolescents, people over 70 years of age, people with disabilities and patients with special treatments that require assistance from trained personnel. When such persons must leave a place of residence or isolation, they may do so accompanied by a person who serves as support.

4. Activities due to force majeure or fortuitous event.

5. The tasks of the medical missions of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and of all international humanitarian and health organizations, the provision of public and private professional, administrative, operational, and technical health services.

6.- The chain of production, supply, storage, transportation, marketing and distribution of medicines, pharmaceuticals, supplies, cleaning products, disinfection and personal hygiene for homes and hospitals, equipment and devices of health technologies, as well as maintenance and support to guarantee the continuous provision of health services. Also included: operation of establishments and commercial premises for the commercialization of medicines, pharmaceuticals, supplies, equipment and devices of health technologies.

7. Activities related to emergency services, including veterinary emergencies.

8. Funeral services, burials and cremations.

9. The chain of production, supply, storage, transport, commercialization and distribution of: inputs to produce basic necessities, including food, beverages, medicines, medical devices, cleaning, cleaning, and goods of ordinary consumption in the population; laboratory reagents; food, medicines and other products for pets, as well as the elements and goods necessary to attend to the sanitary emergency, and the chain of supplies related to the production of these goods.

10. The chain of sowing, fumigation, harvesting, production, packaging, packaging, import, export, transport, storage, distribution and marketing of: seeds, inputs and agricultural, fishing, aquaculture, livestock and agrochemical products including fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, and animal feed, maintenance of animal health, the operation of primary and secondary food processing centers, the operation of the commercialization infrastructure, major and minor irrigation for the supply of population and agricultural water, and the technical assistance. The logistics and transportation of the above activities will be guaranteed. Likewise, the maintenance activities of boats and agricultural or fishing machinery.

11. The face-to-face marketing of basic necessity products will be carried out in stores, warehouses, markets, wholesale and retail supermarkets and retail markets in establishments and commercial premises nationwide, and they may market their products through electronic commerce platforms and/or for home delivery.

12. The activities of public servants, government contractors, individuals who perform public functions and other personnel necessary to prevent, mitigate and attend to the health emergency due to the covid-19 coronavirus, and guarantee the operation of governmente services.

13.The activities of the personnel of the diplomatic and consular missions duly accredited to the Colombian State, strictly necessary to prevent, mitigate and attend to the health emergency due to the covid-19 coronavirus.

14. The activities of the military forces, the national Police and state security agencies, as well as the military and defense industry, and officials of the Attorney General's Office and the National Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences.

15. The activities of public and private service ports, exclusively for cargo transportation.

16. Maritime and river dredging activities.

17. The execution of transport infrastructure works and public works, as well as the supply chain of materials and supplies related to their execution.

18. The activities of the construction sector, execution of civil works and the remodeling of buildings, as well as the supply of materials and supplies exclusively destined for their execution.

19. The air and airport operation in accordance with the provisions of article 8 of the decree, and their respective maintenance.

20. The commercialization of the products of gastronomic establishments and premises, including those located in hotels, through electronic commerce platforms, by home delivery and by take-away delivery.

21. The activities of the hotel industry to serve its guests strictly necessary to prevent, mitigate and attend the health emergency due to the covid-19 coronavirus.

22. The operation of critical infrastructure including computers, computer systems, communication networks, data and information, whose destruction or interference can weaken or impact the security of the economy, public health or a combination of them.

23. The operation of call centers, contact centers, technical support centers and data processing centers that provide services in the national territory and electronic commerce platforms.

24. The operation of the provision of private security and surveillance services, prison and penitentiary services.

25. Cleaning and toilet services, including domestic service and laundry service.

26. The activities necessary to guarantee the operation, maintenance, storage and supply of the provision of public services of aqueduct, sewage, electric energy, public lighting, cleanliness (collection, transportation, use and final disposal, recycling, including biological waste or sanitary) and recovery of materials; of the logistics chain of inputs, supplies for the production, supply, import, export and supply of hydrocarbons, liquid fuels, biofuels, natural gas, Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG); of the supply logistics chain, supplies for the production, supply, import, export and supply of minerals, and internet and telephone service.

27. The provision of services: banking; financial; payment postal operators; currency buying and selling professionals; operations of [lottery] games of luck and chance in the form of novel and territorial permanent bets; chance and lottery; transport of valuables; notarial activities and registration of public instruments, and issuance of urban planning licenses.

The Superintendent of Notaries and Registry will determine the hours and shifts in which notarial services will be provided, guaranteeing the provision of the service to the most vulnerable people and those with special constitutional protection.

28. The operation of postal, courier, radio, television, press and distribution services of the media.

29. The supply and distribution of basic necessities -- food, beverages, medicines, medical devices, hygiene, cleaning, and goods of ordinary consumption in the population -- under social programs of the State and private persons.

30. The activities of the interreligious sector related to institutional emergency programs, humanitarian, spiritual and psychological aid.

31. The production, supply, storage, repair, maintenance, transport and distribution chain of manufacturing industries.

32. Wholesale and retail trade, including the operation of shopping centers and real estate activities.

33. The activities of operators of payments of wages, fees, pensions, public and private economic benefits; periodic social economic benefits (BEPS), and those corresponding to the Social Security and Social Protection systems and subsystems.

34. The strictly necessary displacement of the directing and teaching staff of public and private educational institutions, to prevent, mitigate and attend to the health emergency due to the covid-19 coronavirus.

35. In accordance with the measures, instructions and schedules established by the mayors in their respective territorial jurisdictions, and in any case subject to the biosafety protocols established for this purpose, the following will be allowed:

• Physical activities and outdoor exercise of people who are in the age range of 18 to 69 years, for a maximum period of two hours a day.
• Physical activities and outdoor exercise of children over 6 years old, three times a week, one hour a day.
• Physical activities and outdoor exercise of children between 2 and 5 years old, three times a week, half an hour a day.
• Physical activities and outdoor exercise of adults over 70 years, three times a week, half an hour a day.

36. The carrying out of appraisals of goods and carrying out of studies of titles that have the purpose of the constitution of guarantees, before entities supervised by the Financial Superintendence of Colombia.

37. The operation of communal police stations and police inspections, as well as their users.

38. The manufacture, repair, maintenance and purchase and sale of spare parts and accessories for conventional and electric bicycles.

39. Public parking for vehicles.

40. Museums and libraries.

41. Practical and research laboratories of institutions of higher education and education for work and human development.

42. Professional, technical and service activities in general.

43. Hairdressing services.


Mayorships in the 10 municipalities in the metro Medellin area announced late May 23 that they will continue “pico y cedula” shopping-days restrictions starting Monday, May 25, through Sunday, May 31.

According to Área Metropolitana del Valle de Aburrá (AMVA) -- the regional coordinating agency for Medellin-metro governments – people with cedulas ending in 7 or 8 can venture out on Monday, May 25, while people with cedulas ending in 9 or 0 can venture out on Tuesday, May 26 – with successive number/days rotations (see chart, above).

The regulation applies to the cities of Barbosa, Girardota, Copacabana, Bello, Medellín, Envigado, Itagüí, Sabaneta, La Estrella and Caldas, following Colombian government extension of the national Covid-19 quarantine through May 31 -- with new regulations possible for June.

As has been the case since “pico y cedula” began two months ago, only one person per household is permitted to venture-out for shopping and banking trips on the designated "pico y cedula" days.

However, workers in quarantine-exempt industries -- who also are enrolled in the mandatory “Medellin Me Cuida” program -- are exempt from “pico y cedula” restrictions.

Personal vehicles continue to be exempt from “pico y placa” restrictions, in order to avoid crowding on the "Metro" public transit system. But taxis in the 10 cities here are returning to their prior “pico y placa” restrictions starting May 25, according to AMVA.

Colombia President Ivan Duque plans to announce later this week what sort of general restrictions must be imposed for Covid-19 avoidance for the month of June. Following that announcement, the 10 mayors of metro Medellin subsequently will meet to decide on possible extension or revision of “pico y cedula” rules for June 1 through June 30, according to AMVA.


Colombia Transport Minister Ángela María Orozco announced last night (May 20) in a nationally televised presentation on Coronavirus regulations that regular international passenger flights to and from Colombia will be banned through August 31.

The surprising announcement came just one day after President Ivan Duque stated that international and national flights -- except for rare emergencies and humanitarian repatriations -- would be banned at least through June 30.

However, aside from allowing repatriation and emergency flights, Colombia also continues talks with various air transport regulators and health regulatory officials on potential ways to reopen passenger air traffic, she said.

In the same televised presentation, President Duque and Commerce (MinCIT) Minister Jose Manuel Restrepo added that starting June 1 – in coordination with local mayors – shopping centers can start to reopen, but with maximum 30% capacity in order to avoid crowding and cross-contamination.

Medical specialties such as dentistry also would begin to reopen under strict health protocols from June 1, along with wholesale and retail operations (30% capacity limit), barber/beauty parlors (30% capacity limit) and other commercial operations.

On another front, Colombia’s Health Minister Fernando Ruiz announced during the same broadcast that new guidelines to contain Covid-19 have been issued for family homes.

Rationale: More Colombians are returning to work under biosafety rules and local mayor approvals, while children are now permitted to go outside three times/week and also will start returning to schools under alternating physical/virtual schedules in August.

The new biosafety guidelines “consider the new scenario, in which children can go out and some members of the household are authorized to resume work activities outside the home and must use means of transportation,” according to the Health Ministry.

The new advisory includes recommendations on personal washing, disinfection of the home and bathrooms, pets, prevention measures when entering and leaving the home and measures for users of private vehicles, motorcycles and bicycles.

"It also includes aspects at a psychosocial level such as the need to share domestic tasks and chores, free-time management and the balance of time in educational and work tasks and care-giver rotation,” Ruiz added.

In addition, the Ministry is developing new guidelines so that starting June 1, people 70 years and older -- and children 5 years and younger -- can start to escape quarantine for limited periods.


Colombia President Ivan Duque announced May 19 in a nationwide address that Colombia will transition from Covid-19 "general quarantine" to potentially less-severe, city-specific “health emergency” regulations starting June 1 through August 31.

Differences between “quarantine” and “health emergency” regulatory limits could prove to be relatively great in areas lacking Covid-19 threats. But regulations likely will be less liberal in other areas with greater relative problems and challenges with Covid-19.

For example: Mayors of big cities such as Medellin, Bogota and Cali likely would continue to enforce relatively stricter limits than those in rural areas, although “gradual reopenings” likely will expand to more economic sectors in both big and small cities.

Schools for example could start to offer limited in-person, physical attendance with alternating shifts -- along with mandatory masks and physical distancing -- perhaps alternating with “virtual classes,” starting in August, President Duque explained.

Likewise, libraries and museums could reopen with strict limits on total people entering, along with mandatory masks and other prevention measures, he said.

Meanwhile, all international and national passenger flights will continue to be banned through at least June 30, except for rare cases of emergencies or humanitarian repatriations, President Duque clarified.

However, President Duque also announced two days earlier in a separate nationwide address that international travel continues to be the most problematic. Therefore, it’s possible that Colombia could announce further bans or restrictions on international flights well beyond June 30.

One key reason: Such flights don’t depend solely upon Colombia decisions, President Duque explained. Rather, international flight health-protective standards and protocols must be developed in coordination with International Air Transport Association (IATA), various airlines, various airports, transport sector employees, the World Health Organization (WHO), various national governments and health regulators in various states or cities. What's more, Colombia might decide to have even tougher limits.

While Colombia’s national Covid-19 quarantine presumptively had been set to expire May 24, the new order extends it to May 31.

This means that metro Medellin and other big cities here are likely to extend “pico y cedula” shopping-days rotations for at least another week beyond May 24 – and possibly even beyond that.

Persons 70 years and older likewise will have mandatory quarantine extended through June 30, along with younger persons with pre-existing health conditions such as heart trouble and diabetes, President Duque said.

Public transport likewise will continue with a 35% capacity limit, while schools and universities will continue with “virtual” classes through all of June and July.

At least 80% of public employees likewise must continue telecommuting, while private-sector office workers also should continue to work from home whenever possible, he added.

Meanwhile, as of May 19, the Health Ministry had recorded 16,935 Coronavirus cases nationally, with 613 deaths and 4,050 recoveries.

Bogota leads with 5,934 cases, followed by Atlantico (1,923), then Cali/Valle del Cauca (1,883), then Bolivar (1,576), Amazonas (1,220); Meta (954) and Medellin/Antioquia (561).


Some 15 million Colombians could be freed from Coronavirus quarantine this month as a result of new flexibility measures for certain economic sectors as well as for some 800 municipalities that (to date) haven’t had a single case of Covid-19.

This "Covid-free-area" exemption potentially would include large areas of rural Antioquia -- but not in Medellin, nor its heavily populated metro-area municipalities.

So explained Colombia President Ivan Duque, Colombia Vice President Marta Lucia Ramirez, Health Minister Fernando Ruiz and “MinCIT” Commerce Minister Jose Manuel Restrepo in a 6 pm May 5 nationwide televised address.

Among the industrial sectors that can start to escape quarantine starting May 11: Automobile and auto-parts manufacturing, furniture manufacturing, clothing manufacture, machinery manufacturing, electronics manufacturing and repair, construction-materials manufacturing, marine equipment repair, vehicle diagnostics centers, industrial laundries (with home-delivery-only option), bookstores, office-supply stores and hardware stores -- and, in some 800 municipalities free of Covid-19, almost any other type of commerce (except for bars, billiard halls, discoteques, sit-down restaurants or mass events such as concerts).

However, the mayors of such Covid-free cities first must petition the Health Ministry and the Interior Ministry to allow such businesses to reopen, once these business prove that they are complying with the new biosafety protocols. Only following Health Ministry review would such businesses be allowed to reopen.

What’s more, over this coming week, the Health Ministry will be unveiling new biosafety protocols for many more industries and commercial operations throughout Colombia.

With these new protocols, mayors in many more cities -- starting May 11 -- can begin the process of reopening many more sectors, beyond the existing exemptions for manufacturing, construction, agriculture, food manufacture, freight transport, public services, supermarkets, pharmacies, hospitals, utilities, public transport and safety.

These local mayors in Colombia will be empowered to open-up more businesses only if the businesses first meet new-and-upcoming biosafety protocols. In addition, such reopenings must not cause public transport to exceed the current 35% capacity limit designed to thwart Coronavirus infections.

Medellin, for example, is well-below the 35% limit today, at just 22% of capacity, Health Minister Ruiz revealed. Bogota likewise is only at 21% currently.

Beyond new industrial/commercial reopenings, personal reopenings are also starting May 11: Children between six and 17 years old will now be allowed to go outdoors for 30 minutes, three times per week, when accompanied by a healthy, low-risk (60 years age maximum), responsible adult, Ruiz added.

“Between May 11 and May 25, we are going to extend the mandatory preventive quarantine, but recovering productive and living spaces – and doing so with the responsibility of continuing to protect life and continue to protect health,” President Duque said.

“We are going to give other sectors the opportunity also to boost our economy and there we are going to have industrial sectors,” he added.

“Pico y cedula” restrictions in cities such as Medellin and Bogota thus will continue beyond May 11, but now will give people the option to go to bookstores, office-supply stores, hardware stores and pet stores, in addition to existing permissions for grocery, banking and pharmacy trips, he added.

Current bans on international and national flights will continue at least through May 30, as well as mandatory quarantines for school-age students, people with severe existing health problems, and people 70 years and older.

According to the Ministry of Commerce, here is the complete list of economic subsectors that will start to open following May 11:

1. Manufacture of furniture, mattresses and bed frames;
2. Manufacture of motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers;
3. Manufacture of computer, electronic and optical products;

4. Manufacture of machinery and equipment;
5. Maintenance and repair of motor vehicles;
6. Maintenance and repair of technology and computer equipment;

7. Wholesale and retail trade of vehicles (including parts, pieces and accessories);
8. Wholesale trade of furniture and household goods;
9. Wholesale trade of machinery and equipment;

10. Retail trade of pet products;
11. Retail trade of construction materials, hardware, locksmiths and glass and paint products in specialized stores;
12. Retail trade of fuels, lubricants, additives and cleaning products for motor vehicles in specialized establishments;

13. Retail trade of books, newspapers, stationery, supplies and desks in specialized stores;
14. Laundry services for home delivery only;
15. Establishments providing vehicle maintenance services, appliances, boats, agricultural or fishing machinery,  as well as establishments supplying and/or installing vehicle spare parts;
16. Automotive diagnostic centers.


Medellin-based banking giant Bancolombia announced April 27 that it has approved COP$17.4 trillion (US$4.3 billion) in payroll-coverage loans to 293,000 small, medium and independent businesses in Colombia via a new National Guarantee Fund (FNG) Coronavirus-crisis program.

Under the FNG program, the government of Colombia is assuming 90% of the payback risk, thus helping banks to aid micro, small, medium and sole-proprietor businesses (SMEs) to pay workers temporarily idled by the Coronavirus crisis.

President Ivan Duque announced April 21 that “with a 90% guarantee, to finance those payrolls of the SMEs, there is no excuse for [banks and lenders] not doing so. We also understand the prudence that risk analyses should be done, but we also need to reconcile these quickly.”

In the wake of Duque's remarks about some slowness in lender loan-request response times during the Coronavirus crisis, Bancolombia -- Colombia’s biggest bank – has since responded to a tidal wave of loan requests covered by the new FNG program.

“We are inviting SMEs, businesses and independents to use this [credit] line to secure employment and pay their payroll as this should be a priority,” said Bancolombia Business Vice-President Cristina Arrastía.

The new payroll-coverage loan deal carries a term of up-to-36-months and annual interest rates varying from 7.66% to 12.9%, she said.

“We know that in Colombia SMEs generate 80% of employment and that companies have different needs to continue operating in the midst of this situation.

“This [program] means having more resources to meet short-term needs by having better cash flow, with significant reductions in annual interest payments. Those interested should call their [Bancolombia] account executive for the details of how to access or they can call the phone line 01-800-0912345 without leaving home,” she added.

To access the special credit line, applicants must prove their current payroll -- by providing a copy of Colombia’s mandatory Integrated Contribution Settlement Return (PILA) of the previous month -- and also provide continuing proof of payment of their financed payroll.

President Duque added in his April 21 comments on the new FNG program that Colombia’s Superfinanciera financial regulatory agency “will monitor whether the credits for financing the payrolls of MSMEs are being carried out.”

In addition, the national government has also boosted credit capacity with Banco Agrario and Bancóldex to help agricultural producers and exporting companies confront the current crisis, he added.


 

Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero announced April 24 a novel computerized registration scheme – unique in all Colombia -- for all employers and employees in the construction and manufacturing sectors that are reopening for business on April 27 in the Valle de Aburra metro area.

Employers are now registering their businesses (and their employees) at https://www.medellin.gov.co/irj/portal/medellin/acceso-formulario-permisos-empresas while employees also are registering themselves at https://www.medellin.gov.co/medellinmecuida/.

With this computerized information, enforcement officials will be able to track and control movements to-and-from workplaces as well as limit use of the Metro public transport system only to people authorized to venture out to work -- as well as those authorized for grocery, drugs and banking on “pico y cedula” days.

Companies that lack the new “Medellinmecuida” registrations will be shut down and fined, while individual persons lacking this registration likewise will be fined, he said.

In addition, registered companies that detect two or more cases of workers with Coronavirus will be shut down for at least 14 days, Mayor Quintero explained.

An estimated 800,000 people in the Medellin metro area are likely to make work trips starting April 27 -- thanks to the restart of manufacturing and construction sectors as allowed by new Colombian government regulations, Quintero said.

To aid enforcement and limit potential Coronavirus infections, Medellin police will have a new cell-phone app that can read and determine instantaneously whether any person stopped on the street, on the Metro system or at work is authorized to be circulating. Likewise, the Metro “Civica” card used to access the public transit system can be read by the same cell-phone app, thus helping to limit potential crowding and cross-infections.

Any non-complying person found on these detection sweeps will have their “Civica” card deactivated -- and if there’s Coronavirus symptoms detected on this person, then the employer’s business also can be shuttered.

While telecommuting is mandated by the national government wherever possible during this crisis, relatively Coronavirus-free bicycling options also are expanding with new dedicated bike lanes and every-10-minutes disinfections of the “Encicla” free bicycles tied to Medellin’s “Metro” system, Quintero added.

Simultaneously, “pico y placa” restrictions on vehicles also are being lifted to enable more people to avoid overcrowding on the “Metro” system, Quintero added.

Meanwhile, according to Colombia’s Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism (MinCIT), seven more sub-sectors of manufacturing are returning to work on April 27, including textiles and clothing; leather and shoe-making; woodworking; paper and cardboard manufacture; chemicals manufacture; metalworking; and manufacture of electrical equipment.

These businesses can stay open only if they meet strict, new Ministry of Health biosafety protocols including mandatory use of facemasks, workplace disinfection, worker health detection, removal of workers with symptoms, distancing rules and adherence to the 35% limit on mass transport capacity.

It’s up to local mayors and departmental governors to enforce these new biosafety protocols in coordination with Health Ministry officials and local and departmental health authorities, MinCIT Minister Jose Manuel Restrepo added.

These mayors and governors can shut-down any company or any industry that isn’t complying with these biosafety measures, he said.

On the other hand, companies that voluntarily decide not to reopen would forfeit access to multiple credit and financing programs created by the national government in response to the Coronavirus crisis, he added.

These industry/company shut-down rule provisions in the new MinCIT rules could for example help mayors to address fears about the health impacts of the partial economic reopening of construction and manufacturing sectors on April 27.

For example, Bogota Mayor Claudia Lopez -- who is publicly fighting with President Ivan Duque over the partial reopening --  presumably could shutter manufacturing by citing her claims that the manufacturing industry in Bogota isn’t nearly ready to comply with biosafety rules on April 27. Nor is Bogota’s public transit system ready to accept a big surge of passengers, according to Mayor Lopez.


The Area Metropolitana de Valle de Aburra (AMVA) announced April 23 that Medellin and all its neighbors in Valle de Aburra will switch to a unified “pico y cedula” system restricting grocery, medicine and banking trips to certain days of the week during the Coronavirus quarantine.

The new order covers Medellin, Barbosa, Itagüí, Caldas, Sabaneta, La Estrella, Envigado, Bello, Copacabana and Girardota, according to AMVA.

So, starting next Monday (April 27), people with Colombia cedula numbers ending in 7 or 8 can venture out for groceries, drugs and banking, while people with cedulas ending in 9 or 0 can venture out the following day (Tuesday, April 28) -- with further successive number rotations on following days (see chart, above).

Then, on Monday, May 4, a new rotation starts, so people with cedulas ending in 2 or 3 can venture out, while those with cedulas ending in 4 or 5 can venture out on Tuesday, May 5, with further successive number rotations on following days.

Colombia's national quarantine is presumptively set to expire May 11.  But depending upon the evolution of the Coronavirus infection curve, it's possible that another 14-day extension could be announced. So, revised "pico y cedula" rules might be extended yet again starting May 11.

Most people 70 years and older, and all school-age students, will remain in mandatory quarantine until May 30 -- but have the same cedula/day excursion allowances.  

Meanwhile, the government potentially might announce further easings of quarantine restrictions on certain industries in coming days or weeks -- but coupled with strict health protocols that already apply to construction, manufacturing, mining, agriculture, food retailing, pharmacies and public services. 

 


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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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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