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Left to right: Health Minister Fernando Ruiz; Transport Minister Angela Maria Orozco; Aerocivil Director Juan Carlos Salazar Left to right: Health Minister Fernando Ruiz; Transport Minister Angela Maria Orozco; Aerocivil Director Juan Carlos Salazar Source: Ministerio de Transporte

Colombia Debuts Biosecurity Protocols for Domestic Flights, but Mayors Get Final Say

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Colombia’s Health and Transport Ministers on July 1 unveiled long-awaited aviation biosecurity protocols – hoping to spur more economic recovery, but also aiming to minimize Covid-19 infections for all future domestic passenger flights.

However, mayors and departmental governors get the final say on whether and when to allow any flights, according to the new protocol.

Neither Medellin's international airport at Rionegro nor the downtown Olaya Herrera airport in Medellin will allow any flights until all mayors in the metropolitan area agree that it's safe to restart -- even on a "pilot" test basis, as Antioquia Acting Governor Luis Fernando Suárez announced June 30.

Any future flights to or from Medellin's airports -- if approved by mayors here -- would be restricted to origin cities with very low levels of Covid-19 incidence, such as Pereira, Manizales, Armenia or Bucaramanga, he said.  Governor Suárez added that flights to areas with high incidence of Covid-19 such as Cali, Barranquilla, Cartagena or Bogotá are absolutely out-of-the-question.

“The biosecurity protocol for the prevention of Covid-19, prepared by Civil Aeronautics and authorized by the Ministry of Health and Social Protection in Resolution 1054 of June 27, 2020, establishes the measures that must be adopted for the operation of the airports and airlines, from the arrival of the passenger to the air terminals of the city of origin until their disembarkation and departure at the destination,” according to the official July 1 press bulletin from Colombia's Health and Transport Ministries.

“In the technical meetings and analyses prior to issuing the protocol, the international experiences of organizations such as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the Airports Council International (ACI), the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Latin American Civil Aviation Commission (CLAC), the Latin American and Caribbean Association of Air Transport (ALTA), as well as those of civil aviation authorities from China, Canada, South Korea were included. Concepts from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) were also taken into account,” according to the joint statement.

The new protocol includes many restrictions:

1. Passengers must arrive two hours maximum before the scheduled time of their flight, and with their electronic check-in ready, to avoid delays and congestion.

2. For exceptional cases of passengers who have not been able to check in previously, they will be allowed to enter and will be sent to the airline’s ticket module.

3. Passengers should only carry personal luggage, bags or small backpacks that can be kept under the passenger seat. The rest of the luggage must be sent to the baggage compartment in the plane.

4. It will be recommended to use the ‘CoronApp-Colombia’ application for all people entering the country's airports, with all the data completed. This allows the authorities to have information on the passengers about their health condition.

5. Only passengers and those who work in the terminals will be allowed to enter.

6. Body temperature measurement will be employed on all people entering an airport and on arrival of flights. Thermometers that do not involve physical contact will be used.

7. All persons, without exception, passengers and workers who are in an airport must use personal protection elements – that is, face masks.

8. Once passenger identities and boarding passes have been verified, they should immediately go to the boarding lounges, in order to avoid crowds from forming.

9. Those responsible for operating airports must disinfect and clean all areas, boarding rooms, public areas, among others, as established by biosafety protocols.

10. Boarding will not begin until the aircraft is fully ready for passengers to enter.

11. All airport users, crews and employees are obliged to respect the physical distance of two meters in areas such as counters, scanners and in the lines for boarding aircraft.

12. Inside the aircraft, no service will be provided on board, and travelers will be asked not to use on-board entertainment systems such as screens, mobile phones, among others. If possible, aircraft toilets should not be used.

13. Passengers and crew will wear face masks at all times during the flight. Likewise, passengers must remain seated during the flight.

14. Upon landing, the flight attendant will instruct passengers to disembark in an orderly and row-based manner.

15. All passengers must report to their EPS [health provider/insurance network] and to the airline if, during the 14 days after their flight, they present symptoms that coincide with Covid-19 disease.

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