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Colombia President Ivan Duque Advises of Possible Changes to Coronavirus Quarantine on April 4, 2020 Colombia President Ivan Duque Advises of Possible Changes to Coronavirus Quarantine on April 4, 2020 Source: Presidencia de Colombia

Colombia President to Define Post-April-13 Quarantine Measures This Week; Mask Mandate Now National

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Colombia President Ivan Duque announced April 4 that his administration likely will decide early this week whether and how strict the current national Coronavirus quarantine will extend beyond the presumptive April 13 expiration.

“We are working with scientists, epidemiologists, infectious disease specialists within the team of the Ministry of Health and the National Institute of Health [INS] -- and depending on how the reading of the epidemiological curve is, from the beginning of next week [April 6-11] we will be able to say if the current measures are extended or if, on the contrary, we go from a ‘total mandatory preventive isolation’ to an isolation that is intelligent,” meaning more-specific, targeted measures, President Duque said.

As of April 5, the Ministry of Health reported 1,485 cases of Cornavirus nationally, with 35 deaths (none in Antioquia) and 88 people fully recovered. Bogota continues to register the most cases (725) followed by Cali/Valle del Cauca (196) and then Medellin/Antioquia (172).

Currently, all Colombian residents 70 years and older are in quarantine until May 30 with the exception of venturing out for food, medicines, health care and banking.

What’s more, many cities (including metro Medellin) have additional “pico y cedula” restrictions that effectively limit even these grocery/pharmacy/banking trips to just two days of each week -- not just for those 70 and older, but rather for all residents.

Meanwhile, schools and universities are shut down during the current quarantine, with many students attending “virtual” classes via internet connections. Most commercial enterprises likewise are shuttered -- leaving millions temporarily unemployed -- although workers continue laboring in supermarkets, pharmacies, banks, fuel stations, power stations, utilities, health care, food production, farming, freight transport, public safety, certain essential construction sites and local public transport.

Further, air traffic is suspended along with much inter-city bus traffic -- with Medellin having already shuttered both its North and South terminals.

What’s more, the Ministry of Health announced April 4 that all people moving in and around congested areas in Colombia must start wearing protective masks. 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 new order from the Mayor of Medellin requiring all passengers on the “Metro” rail, bus, aerial tram and streetcar system to wear protective masks starting Tuesday, April 7.

As for potential upcoming modifications or extensions to the existing national quarantine, President Duque explained that “intelligent isolation” measures would at minimum include “protection and restriction of the elderly,” plus “restrictions on the educational system” as well as “rules of distancing.”

“Measures such as those that have been implemented in South Korea or even in Singapore show that activities with greater and better health protocols” gradually can be adopted following an initial, drastic quarantine of nearly everyone, he said. But such gradual flexibilities will depend upon “improving testing capacity, improving capacity of isolating those with the disease and maintaining the protection of older adults, children and young people,” he added.

The ultimate goals of “intelligent isolation” during the crisis must include protection of "life, health, the most vulnerable, employment and maintainence of social and economic resilience,” he added.

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