Friday, November 27, 2020

Become part of our community

captcha 

Colombia’s Ministry of Health announced November 4 that it has decided to eliminate a prior requirement that all airline travelers to Colombia must obtain a negative Covid-19 result from a PCR test within 96 hours of boarding an international flight.

“New conditions to enter the country by air eliminate the requirement of having a negative PCR test result up to 96 hours before the flight,” according to the Ministry.

Instead, passengers must be checked for fever or respiratory symptoms “associated with Covid-19” and must complete the mandatory “Check-Mig” cell-phone application, according to Julian Fernández Niño, director of epidemiology at the Health Ministry.

The new provisions “are made within the framework of the Sustainable Selective Testing, Tracking and Isolation strategy (PRASS),” according to the Ministry.

“For their part, airlines must inform their passengers that upon arrival in Colombia they will be monitored either by their [Colombian health] insurer, the Ministry of Health or through the CCNR National Tracking Contact Center.”

As in prior regulations, all airline travelers over two years of age must wear face masks throughout the flight. Long flights will require passengers to change masks at regular intervals.

In addition, “travelers should avoid using the bathroom as much as possible on flights of less than two hours and remain in the assigned seat during the flight time,” according to the Ministry.

Upon arrivals, passengers “must report to the [CCNR National Tracking Contact Center] if during the 14 days after their trip they present suspicious symptoms of Covid-19.”

“Given recent evidence it is suggested that travelers keep silent as much as possible during the trip, since this reduces the risk of [Covid-19] transmission during the trip,” the Ministry added.


Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero, Antioquia Governor Anibal Gaviria, Colombia Health Minister Fernando Ruiz and Colombia President Ivan Duque jointly announced October 28 more measures to address surging Covid-19 cases in Antioquia and other parts of Colombia.

Beyond the upcoming bans on booze, bars and Halloween this weekend, upcoming curfews on children from 6 pm Friday, October 30 through 6 pm Monday, November 2 will also include curfews on adults from 10 pm until 6 am on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and until the dawn of Monday, November 2.

“During these days [and times], people may not circulate on the roads or in public spaces in the city,” Mayor Quintero stated.

“This Halloween cannot be normal. Costumes must worn be in the house, children must not go out. There will also be a restriction to avoid parties, not only in bars and restaurants, but even in homes, which is why a ‘dry law’ is put in place,” Quintero added.

The ban on booze sales for private or public consumption starts 6 pm Friday, October 30 and runs until the first minute of Tuesday, November 3.

“The objective in the department of Antioquia is to increase the installed capacity of Intensive Care Units [ICUs] to 1,400,” according to the Mayor’s Office. “The city of Medellín, to reach this goal, complies with ‘Plan Mil’ and as part of it will activate 176 beds that are already installed.”

“This goal of reaching 1,400 ICU beds is with the [Antioquia departmental] government, but the most important goal is that we do not have to use them,” Quintero added.

As of October 28, Medellín has 3,358 active Covid-19 cases, of which 230 are in ICUs, which represents 42% of total ICU capacity for all types of health problems.

Colombia Health Minister Urges Caution

However, Health Minister Fernando Ruiz added that Medellin and Antioquia department “are on a prolonged [Covid-19 case-load] plateau with a slight growth trend, which can generate a number of important problems, already expressed in an occupation of intensive care beds that is between 80% and 90%” department-wide.

To stem a hospital crisis, Antioquia has ordered limits on elective surgeries “to avoid excess-demand for intensive care” as well as “equipping ICU beds with equipment that is already in the territory, with which we can expand easily 180 more beds to be able to have a large availability within the city,” Minister Ruiz stated.

Beyond adding ICU beds, “we require the collaboration of the public to avoid all outbreaks of Covid-19. Social discipline is very important, solidarity among all,” Ruiz added.

President Duque Extends Current Restrictions

Meanwhile, Colombia President Ivan Duque announced in an October 28 nationally televised address that “greater control must be exercised over crowds” that are the main “super-spreaders” of Covid-19 outbreaks.

Citizens must take greater measures for “awareness, behavior, discipline and civic culture to prevail in order to have a good month of November with safe [economic] reactivation,” he said.

President Duque also cited a disturbing “second wave” of Covid-19 in Spain, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and other European countries, “which due to situations of severe outbreaks [governments] have had to take restrictive [quarantine] measures,” which Colombia must try to avoid.

“In the month of October we maintained the ‘selective isolation with responsible individual distancing’ [regulations] and today I have given very clear instructions to the Minister of Health, after having listened to all the experts, so that we issue a decree as of November 1, extending until November 30” the same, current regulations, he said.

Special emphasis will be placed on “exercising greater control over [crowd] agglomerations” while local authorities “will have to work hand in hand with the national government for this purpose,” he added.


Area Metropolitana de Valle de Aburrá (AMVA) – the metro Medellin council of governments – announced October 26 that all local governments except Girardota will impose a curfew on minors (under 18) this Halloween holiday weekend -- 6 pm Friday, October 30 through midnight Monday, November 2-- and likewise ban all sales of liquor.

The move comes in response to a surge of Covid-19 cases locally and nationally, all caused by careless, ignorant or selfish groups of people who fail to wear face masks, fail to maintain minimum social distances and fail to conform to strict workplace, public-space and travel-space health protocols.

Restaurants, bars, clubs and casinos all must shut their doors by 10 pm each day during the long weekend, according to AMVA.

“In a meeting with the Colombia’s Vice Minister of Health Alexander Moscoso; the Governor of Antioquia Aníbal Gaviria Correa; the director of the Metropolitan Area Juan David Palacio Cardona, and the 10 mayors of the Aburrá Valley, following recommendations of the national government, it was decided to establish measures that increase control over the rise in Coronavirus cases in the department of Antioquia and which are concentrated to a greater extent in the municipalities of the [Medellin] metropolitan area,” according to AMVA.

“According to Health Vice-Minister Alexander Moscoso, the national government looks with concern at the increase in cases in Antioquia, and in particular in the Aburrá Valley, where ICUs [intensive care units] are at a high percentage of occupation, and if no measures are taken, the situation will tend to worsen in the region.”

The curfews and liquor restrictions “also avoid road accidents and fights that can further congest hospital units,” according to AMVA.

“The concern is that there is nowhere to attend [extra injured and sickened] people. And the contagion curve predicts that hospital occupancy will grow,” Moscoso warned.

According to the latest statistics from the departmental government, Antioquia recorded another 1,989 new cases of Covid-19 on October 26, with a cumulative total of 157,970 infections since tracking began last March.

Of the latest new cases, 994 are in Medellin, including 24 deaths, with the result that Medellin accounted for most of the 35 Covid-19 deaths yesterday department-wide.

Since tracking began in March, the cumulative number of deaths from Covid-19 in Antioquia now total 3,048.

Antioquia now has an ICU bed occupancy percentage of 81.22%, putting it above the “red-alert” trigger level of 80%.

“To date, there are 5,066 active cases in the Department – 2,840 in Medellin -- and the number of people recovered [since tracking began] is 149,559,” according to the Antioquia government. In all Antioquia, “there are 709 [Covid-19] hospitalized patients: 385 in ICUs and 324 in general hospitalization,” the government added.


Colombia’s Health Ministry announced August 30 that passengers traveling to San Andres island -- or any other Colombian Department (state) with special vulnerability to Covid-19 outbreaks -- must get a Coronavirus test within 48 hours prior to boarding the aircraft.

What’s more, “pilot” international flights starting in September will require passengers to pass a Covid-19 test prior to boarding any such flight, the Interior Ministry announced.

Such restrictions potentially could expand beyond certain areas to include many more domestic flights – not just international flights -- if mayors and governors in certain areas decide that passenger flights threaten to cause more Covid-19 outbreaks.

According to the new Health Ministry bulletin, “for those Departments with a Covid-19 contagion rate of less than 1,000 per 100,000 inhabitants and whose main access route from other departments is only by air, a special protocol is established in order to protect the population.

“People who wish to travel to these destinations must have a Covid-19 antigen test, which must be negative. The result of the test should not be greater than 48 hours before boarding the plane, and it should be carried out by the laboratories provided by the EPS [health insurance network].

“The cost of the test will be assumed during the first 60 days by the [Colombia] health system. Authorization for taking the tests will be made with the purchase and issuance of the ticket.
Alternatively, the person may pay for the test with their own resources,” according to the Ministry.

Test results “will be sent to Coronapp [cell-phone application] and will be delivered to travelers, who must present the result before boarding the plane.

“If the result is positive, [then] you will not be able to make the trip and will have to refrain from showing up at the airport and maintain isolation at home.

“Installation of the Coronapp application is mandatory for at least one member of the family or group where they must register the trip and present [evidence of the installed application] at the airport.”

On a parallel track, origin and destination airport personnel must take body-temperature readings and screen for possible Covid-19 symptoms, according to the Ministry.

“All biosafety protocols must also be complied with by both workers and travelers, which include permanent hand washing, physical distancing, avoiding crowds and permanent and correct use of masks,” according to the Ministry.

“In the event that a traveler exhibits symptoms before the flight, this person must immediately inform the airline, as well as their EPS, and consequently this person will not be able to fly. If this situation occurs at the destination and the result of a Covid-19 test is positive, [then] that person or more members of that family must do strict isolation-in-place as determined by the local authorities.

“In this case, it is the traveler who will assume the cost of the isolation process. In addition, the airline must reissue the return ticket to the city of origin only after the period of isolation or quarantine has ended, determined by the health authority,” according to the Ministry.

Travel to San Andrés

From the first week of September, flights to San Andrés are now allowed, the Ministry noted.

“For those travelers to this destination, it is important to take into account the following protocol:

“1. Once the air ticket is purchased, the antigen test for Covid-19 must be performed, the result of which, in order to travel, must be negative. In addition, this result cannot be greater than 48 hours prior to your trip. To take the test, consider the following steps:

“2. Contact the following phone lines: in Bogotá (1) 307-7171; Medellín (4) 448-6115 – 444-7428, and Cali (2) 386-5666, to schedule the appointment for taking this sample.

“3. Taking the sample is free and can be done in person at the laboratory, at an autolab (without having to get out of the vehicle) or at home, for which an additional cost must be paid. The result of the test will arrive to your email, six hours after the taking.

“4. On the day of your trip, show up at the airport with your identity document, ticket and the result of the Covid-19 test. Without these documents you will not be able to travel.

“5. During the stay on San Andres island, if one of the members of the traveling group has symptoms, then they should contact their EPS or go to a hospital.

“6. In case of positive Covid-19 test results, strict isolation will be carried out at the Iguana Gorda hotel [on San Andres island] in order to activate the protocol and the airline will extend the ticket until this period is completed,” according to the Ministry.

International Flight ‘Pilot’ Tests

Meanwhile, Colombia President Ivan Duque announced August 30 that a few “pilot” test flights to and from international destinations will begin in September.

“We are going to begin to reestablish those international flights,” Duque said during a nationally televised address on the Covid-19 situation.

“Obviously, the [international flights] will not yet be as dynamic, fully, as we had before the pandemic,” he said.

“We are already identifying those routes. We have already had requests from [the Mayors of] Barranquilla, Cartagena, Medellín [and] Pereira,” he said.

Ministry of the Interior spokesman Daniel Palacios added during the broadcast that all major and many smaller airports in Colombia will be open as of September 1.

“We are developing biosecurity protocols for international flights where, at a minimum, there will have to be a negative test (of Covid-19) by the traveler entering the national territory,” Palacios said.


Área Metropolitana del Valle de Aburrá (AMVA, the Medellin metro council of governments) announced last night (August 30) that “pico y cedula” shopping restrictions have at long last been abolished.

Such restrictions had been imposed in the Medellin metro area since late March, aiming to help thwart the spread of Covid-19 infections.

While Colombia’s national government has extended the Covid-19 “limited quarantine” through November 30, “Mayors of Valle de Aburrá establish that as of August 31, 2020, the metropolitan area ‘Pico y Cédula’ will no longer apply,” according to the AMVA bulletin.

Instead, each of the 10 municipalities within AMVA “will take appropriate gradual opening measures for each municipality,” according to the organization.

“Pico y cedula” shopping restrictions had been applied to Medellín, Bello, Envigado, Itagüi, Sabaneta, La Estrella, Caldas, Copacabana, Barbosa and Girardota (the AMVA council members) as well as many other towns and cities throughout Antioquia and Colombia.

The new, more-liberal standard comes as the metro area is starting to experience a plateau in Covid-19 cases and stabilization in demand for intensive care unit (ICU) beds, according to the local mayors.

However, mass gatherings and parties with family or friends “are prohibited, because these activities are the cause of further spread of the virus,” according to AMVA. In addition, people here must wear face masks in public places, and office workers are encouraged to telecommute rather than travel to offices.

Nationwide, as of August 30, Colombia now has recorded a cumulative total of 607,938 cases of Covid-19 since tracking began six months ago, with 450,621 recoveries and 19,364 deaths.

Bogota has the most cumulative cases (209,250) followed by Antioquia/Medellin (79,784); Atlantico (64,007); Cali/Valle del Cauca (46,549); Bolivar (25,147); Cundinamarca (22,772); Cordoba (19,568)); Santander (17,733); Nariño (13,990); Magdalena (12,289); Sucre (11,624); Norte de Santander (11,608); Cesar (10,514); Meta (8,775); Tolima (7,039); Risaralda (6,105); Cauca (5,247); Caqueta (5,860); La Guajira (5,024); Huila (5,007); Boyaca (3,761); and Choco (3,719), according to the Health Ministry.


Colombia’s Health Ministry officially announced August 27 that it no longer intends to block international flights to and from Colombia. But other nations have yet to reciprocate.

“After analysis with epidemiological information that suggests that Colombia is reaching the peak and observing a reduction in the speed of transmission of Covid-19, added to other estimates, the national government considers that conditions do not persist to keep international flights closed,” according to the Health Ministry bulletin.

“In consideration of the current state of the pandemic in Colombia, since it is unlikely that the flights will further increase transmission and the progressive opening that is allowed [under newly modified Colombian quarantine rules taking effect September 1], conditions do not persist to maintain closed international flights to and from the major capitals of the country.”

However, Colombia’s Civil Air Administration (Aerocivil) -- along with health/transport regulators in other nations -- also must evaluate whether such flights “would have a potential impact and if [they] will produce significant changes in the incidence of the pandemic,” according to the Ministry.

“The Ministry has been making a continuous analysis of international studies on the risk of spreading Covid-19 through national and international flights. It has been concluded that the risk varies according to the evolution of the pandemic in the places of origin and destination.

“However, already in a context of community circulation of the virus -- local transmission or community transmission -- many countries have also recently restarted international travel and many others are preparing to start them,” according to the new Ministry analysis.

“If the biosecurity measures already established [in Colombia] for domestic flights are met, [then] the probability of a traveler becoming infected with covid-19 is less than 1%, according to the Barnett study (2020),” according to the Ministry.

“Regarding the possibility of [infection] risk in recipient [cities and nations], this is reduced if strategies such as contact tracing and selective isolation of contacts are implemented, as well as measures at airports.

“In this sense, it is considered that the opening of international flights should be done in consideration of the international health regulations and the biosafety protocols defined by the Ministry of Health, with permanent monitoring of their epidemiological impact,” the Ministry concludes.


Colombia Commerce, Industry and Tourism (MinCIT) Minister José Manuel Restrepo confirmed August 27 that tourism throughout Colombia restarts September 1 -- including intercity private-car, bus and airplane transport modes.

With the lifting of “pico y cedula” restrictions in Medellin, Rionegro and other nearby cities starting next week, that means that people here can at long last start making trips to towns, tourist destinations, hotels and restaurants throughout Antioquia and across Colombia -- but limited by Health Ministry protocols.

What's more, local mayors in areas with relatively high Covid-19 incidence can impose extra restrictions or bans, in coordination with Colombia’s Health, Transport and Interior Ministries. So the broader reopenings may not be as universal or as liberal as some might hope.

In addition, strict Health Ministry protocols will continue on all transport sectors, destinations, hotels, restaurants and public spaces.

For example: mass gatherings -- including family-and-friends gatherings – are strictly banned because these are the main sources of Covid-19 cross-contaminations, according to the Health Ministry.

Likewise, hotel occupancy cannot exceed 30% -- and restaurants also must enforce social-distancing limits to prevent contaminations. Nor can sit-down bars offer liquor.

“All commerce can operate again from September 1, with compliance with biosecurity protocols,” Minister Restrepo stated.

Both Medellin airports (JMC and EOH) meanwhile are expanding domestic flights in September, with Bogota-JMC and Bogota-EOH flights expected to start by mid-month. Flights to-and-from Cali and JMC start next week, while EOH hosts flights to-and-from 10 Colombian cities (see Medellin Herald August 25, 2020).

International flights continue to be banned, however. Colombia alone cannot control this mode, as origin/destination cities and nations, regulatory agencies and airlines also must coordinate complex approvals and protective measures -- such as mandatory tests for Covid-19 infections prior to boardings and arrivals.


Colombia President Ivan Duque announced last night (August 24) that the national Covid-19 quarantine –which includes many current exemptions -- will continue through November 30.

The announcement potentially could trip-up Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero's new plan to lift "pico y cedula" shopping restrictions starting next week. Area Metropolitana de Valle de Aburra (AMVA, the Medellin metro council of governments) has yet to announce any decision on "pico y cedula" restrictions for September.

Meanwhile, as of September 1, the national quarantine evolves from “a system where we had exceptions to one of specific restrictions,” according to President Duque.

The more-liberal quarantine system arises because “we are in a phase where we have reached a kind of plateau [in Covid-19 cases] with a downward trend,” he said.

“We are no longer going to be governed by exceptions, but by specific restrictions, where restrictions will apply to events and crowds, where we will continue to advance in the opening of sectors with the protocols that have been established by the Ministry of Health,” Duque stated in a nationally televised address.

To combat the pandemic, Colombia has adopted tiered regulations for municipalities with low, medium and high incidences of coronavirus infections.

Under the new scenario, Colombia will have “very clear guidelines on issues such as national air transport, which we want to open much more quickly, but obviously with special observance in those highly affected municipalities,” he said.

In parallel, “we cannot relax, we cannot lower our guard and we all have to assume greater responsibility for self-care in exercising physical distancing” along with mandatory use of masks in public spaces and frequent hand-washing.

The modified scheme also will continue to encourage office workers to work from home in order to reduce cross-contamination risks, he added.

As for possible school reopenings, “very strict protocols will continue to be applied with the mayors and with the [Health] secretariats, so that it is a gradual process, thinking about the health and safety of children.” However, many schools and universities will continue to offer classes via internet rather than in-person.

As for restaurant reopenings, government health protocols will require distance-and-capacity limits and also encourage open-air service, he said.

“We are also advancing with more than 600 municipalities in an opening in many other services such as gyms,  and we will also hope to take steps very clearly so that inter-municipal transport is also guided by those patterns,” he added.


Area Metropolitana de Valle de Aburrá (AMVA, the metro Medellin council of governments) announced last night (August 15) that all 10 municipalities in AMVA are switching to a two-digit “pico y cedula” rotation starting Tuesday, August 18, all the way through Sunday, August 30.

The “pico y cedula” regulation applies to Medellín, Bello, Envigado, Itagüi, Sabaneta, La Estrella, Caldas, Copacabana, Barbosa and Girardota, according to AMVA.

The new, more-liberal rotation -- eliminating weekend lockdowns -- comes as the metro area is starting to experience a plateau in Covid-19 cases and stabilization in demand for intensive care unit (ICU) beds, now at 75% of capacity in Medellin.

AMVA credits Covid-19 plateauing to the “4x3” regulatory scheme that over the past four three-day weekends mandated a near-total lockdown of most citizens (most workers and all shoppers) -- paired with four days/week of shopping-and-errands privileges via the “pico y cedula” rotations.

Under the new scheme, people with cedulas ending in 0 or 1 can resume normal shopping-and-errands ventures starting August 18, with subsequent number rotations in following days (see chart, above).

Commenting on the new scheme, Medellín Mayor Daniel Quintero added that while AMVA is lifting the lockdowns over the coming two weekends, “citizens are expected to assume an attitude of responsibility, compliance with biosafety protocols and care for the elderly,” the latter group being the most vulnerable to Covid-19 mortality.

Caldas Mayor Mauricio Cano added that “our call is to maintain preventive isolation at home [that is, aside from pico-y-cedulas privileges], use the face mask, wash hands constantly and maintain social distancing.”

Mass gatherings and parties with family or friends “are prohibited, because these activities are the cause of further spread of the virus,” the AMVA bulletin adds.

Health Ministry Covid-19 Case Update

According to Colombia’s Health Ministry, Antioquia recorded another 1,751 new cases of Covid-19 on August 15 -- 960 of which were in Medellin – along with 55 more deaths, 29 of which were in Medellin. Since Health Ministry tracking began six months ago, Antioquia has recorded 60,873 cases of Covid-19, with 48,570 recoveries so far and 1,121 deaths.

As of August 15, 863 Covid-19 patients are in hospitals in Antioquia, 420 of which are in ICUs, pushing the ICU occupation rate here to 81%.

Nationwide, Colombia now has recorded a cumulative total of 456,689 cases of Covid-19 since tracking began six months ago, with 274,420 recoveries and 14,810 deaths.

Bogota has the most cumulative cases (158,674) followed by Antioquia/Medellin (60,873); Atlantico (60,542); Cali/Valle del Cauca (36,847); Bolivar (21,593); Cundinamarca (14,572); Cordoba (12,231); Nariño (11,273); Magdalena (9,915); Santander (9,608); Sucre (8,443); Norte de Santander (6,500); Meta (5,014); Tolima (4,327) ; Choco (3,439) and Cauca (3,222).


Page 1 of 4

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.

Contact US

logo def
Medellin Herald: Find news, information, reviews and opinion on business, events, conferences, congresses, education, real estate, investing, retiring and more.
  • COL (4) 386 06 27
  • USA (1) 305 517 76 35
  •  www.medellinherald.com 
  •  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
  • Medellin, Antioquia, Colombia

Medellín Photo Galery

Medellin, contrasting colors and styles by Gabriel Buitrago

MPGMPGMPGMPGMPGMPGMPGMPGMPGMPGMPGnav