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Other Norms 31

Published in Other Norms Written by January 16 2021 0

Antioquia Governor Aníbal Gaviria announced last night (January 15) that following consultations with Colombia’s Health Ministry, a new total quarantine hits the entire Medellin metro area (including Oriente) from 6 pm Saturday, January 16 to 5 am Monday, January 18.

Initially, only the city of Medellin had entered into total quarantine last night, as Covid-19 cases pushed intensive care unit (ICU) capacity here to an alarming 97%.

But now, the Valle de Aburra cities of Envigado, Sabaneta, Itagüí, Caldas, La Estrella, Bello, Copacabana, Girardota and Barbosa are also hit by quarantine, along with the Oriente (east of Medellin) cities of Rionegro, Marinilla, La Ceja, El Retiro, Guarne, El Carmen de Viboral and El Santuario, according to the Governor.

“Pico y cedula” shopping restrictions are still in force in Oriente and non-Medellin cities today (Saturday), meaning that people with cedulas ending in even numbers can still shop until 6 pm today.

Those exempted from quarantine include essential workers, home-delivery workers, people in emergency situations, those traveling to or from airports with booked flights, pet walkers, elderly- and child-care helpers, construction workers and people doing routine domestic chores such as outdoor gardening, according to the Governor.

Meanwhile, Colombia Health Minister Fernando Ruiz added in a separate announcement last night that metro Medellin and Oriente must impose an additional curfew from 8 pm to 5 am every day from January 18 to January 22, although home-delivery services will be allowed.


Published in Other Norms Written by January 14 2021 0

Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero just announced this morning (January 15) that Medellin is imposing a total quarantine from 8 pm this evening (Friday) until 5 am Monday January 18 – contradicting an earlier plan that only would have imposed pico-y-cedula shopping restrictions and late-night curfews.

“Medellín will have a [total quarantine] curfew this weekend and recommends the same measure for the rest of the mayors of the metropolitan area. It starts at 8 pm today, Friday, January 15, and runs until 5 am Monday, January 18,” Quintero stated via his Twitter account this morning.

As in previous orders, the quarantine exempts essential workers and emergencies and allows home-deliveries of food and medicines.

Medellin’s 97% occupancy of intensive care units (ICUs) is dangerously close to collapse, which explains the extreme quarantine measure, Quintero said.

Note: Antioquia Governor Anibal Gaviria and Area Metropolitana de Valle de Aburra (AMVA) director Juan David Palacio had yet to comment as of this writing (11 am January 15) whether the entire Medellin metro area would join Medellin in a total quarantine this weekend. Medellin Herald will update this situation immediately should this change.

Prior to today's action, Governor Gaviria and Mayor Quintero had announced January 13 that “pico y cedula” shopping restrictions and nightly curfews would continue from January 14 through 5 am Tuesday, January 19.

On a parallel front, Colombia President Ivan Duque announced that existing national regulatory guidelines -- including strict health protocols aiming to limit the spread of Covid-19 -- will continue at least through the end of February.

The new restrictions “take into account the [Covid-19] contagion indicator in the department, which has remained between 2,500 and 3,000 daily cases, equal to the highest levels that were recorded in the months of July, August and October of last year,” according to Governor Gaviria.

Hospital intensive care unit (ICU) occupancy here continues above 85%, triggering a mandatory “red alert” warning through January 31, which bans non-emergency surgeries, according to the Governor.

Published in Other Norms Written by January 07 2021 0

Going beyond an initial plan for “pico y cedula” shopping restrictions, late-night curfews and liquor-sales bans from now through this coming weekend, Medellin and Antioquia governments have instead decided to declare a total quarantine from 7 pm Friday January 8 until 5 am Tuesday January 12.

Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero and Antioquia Acting Governor Luis Fernando Suarez revealed the new, stricter measure following consultations with Colombia’s Health Ministry earlier today (January 7).

“Following the guidelines of the national government and prior conversation with mayors of the metropolitan area, whose intensive care unit (ICU) occupation is 87% and the Oriente (east of Medellin) has 99% occupation, we take the following measures in defense of life:

“In these two subregions [metro Medellin and Oriente] a curfew is decreed continuous from 7 pm Friday, January 8, until 5 am Tuesday, January 12. In the other sub-regions of the department, the curfew will continue to apply every day from 10 pm until 5 am Tuesday, January 12.”

A ban on liquor sales likewise is imposed from 10 pm Friday 8 to 11:59 pm Monday, January 11, while "pico-y-cedula" shopping restrictions continue throughout Antioquia department until Monday, January 11, he added.

“In accordance with the guidelines of the national government, mobility will be maintained on the department’s roads for the movement of travelers to the different municipalities or to other destinations outside the department. Likewise, home-deliveries and trips for reasons of urgency or verifiable work [are allowed]," Suarez said.

The stricter measures aim to put a lid on a surge of Covid-19 infections -- seen likely to get even worse following the upcoming “Puente de Reyes” three-day weekend here, Mayor Quintero explained.

The new actions follow Health Minister Fernando Ruiz’s announcement last night (January 6) that all Colombian municipalities and territories with intensive care unit (ICU) occupancy rates above 80% should impose quarantines this weekend. That 80% figure would include Medellin and most metro-area towns and cities.

PCR Test Mandate for International Passengers

On a related front, Minister Ruiz clarified that while the recent reimposition of the PCR test mandate for international air-passenger arrivals to Colombia takes effect immediately, passengers that can’t practically get a PCR test in their origin countries right now instead will have to undergo 14-days quarantine upon arrival in Colombia, or else -- starting January 12 -- take the PCR test here.

The international traveler “can state at the [airline check-in counter] at the time he is going to register to take the flight [to Colombia] the impossibility of taking the test [at origin] and that he is going to take it in Colombia. No airline can prevent the person from boarding the plane,” unless the person exhibits Covid-19 symptoms such as fever and respiratory problems, he said.

Ruiz added that when the passenger arrives here, Migration Colombia is not required to demand proof of passing a PCR test at origin. However, the passenger must agree to take the test in Colombia or stay in preventive isolation for 14 days, he said.

Published in Other Norms Written by January 04 2021 0

Colombia’s Health Vice-Minister Luis Alexander Moscoso announced today (January 4) that following a Bogota federal court order, all international passengers flying to Colombia must pass a PCR test for Covid-19 infections, effective immediately.

Those passengers that haven’t passed a PCR test up-to-96 hours before boarding an international flight to Colombia as of today will have to remain in quarantine for 14 days, Moscoso said. In addition, travelers lacking proof of passing a PCR test and exhibiting symptoms such as fever and respiratory problems cannot board the flight, according to the Ministry.

Staring January 12, those passengers that failed to get a PCR test in country of origin before boarding an international flight to Colombia can instead get a PCR test in Colombia, he said.

The test mandate affects all persons from babies to adults, no exceptions.

Colombia had abolished the PCR requirement last year but a Bogota district court judge ordered its reimposition in November. The Health Ministry at first objected to the ruling but now is forced to comply, Moscoso said.

Published in Other Norms Written by December 01 2020 0

Colombia’s Health Minister Fernando Ruiz announced December 1 that international air travelers to Colombia won’t have to pass a pre-flight PCR test for Covid-19 -- nor spend 14 days in automatic quarantine here -- despite a recent Bogota District Court order.

“Travelers entering the country will not have to undergo the PCR test for Covid-19 until the concerns raised by the judge who made the decision to demand [PCR testing proof] again in the national territory are resolved,” Minister Ruiz announced.

“It is practically impossible to make an immediate application of the ruling that orders the application of PCR tests to travelers entering the country. I want to give some peace of mind to travelers and let them know that from the Health Ministry, we will make the best decision” on whether to appeal the decision, he added.

The announcement from Minister Ruiz follows a sentence handed down last week by an 11th District Court in Bogota, in response to a petition brought by lawyer claiming that Colombia’s recent abolition of PCR tests for international travelers threatens further spread of Covid-19.

The Health Ministry on November 4 had abolished a prior regulation that required all international passengers flying to Colombia to pass a PCR test within 96 hours of boarding the flight.

Instead, passengers now must go through a body-temperature checkpoint at departure and arrival, wear face masks, report any possible symptoms, and fill-out the “Check-Mig” cell-phone application that's linked to Colombia’s “Sustainable Selective Testing, Tracking and Isolation” (PRASS) system for Coronavirus contact tracing.

Any passengers subsequently showing Coronavirus symptoms are required to enter quarantine here.

In addition, “airlines must inform their passengers that when they arrive in Colombia they will be monitored by their [health] insurer, the Ministry of Health or through the CCNR National Tracking Contact Center,” according to the Ministry.

While the PCR test is highly accurate, the problem with any one-time test up-to-96-hours before a flight is that a person in early stage of Coronavirus infection – including those asymptomatic -- typically won’t have generated enough antibodies to generate a definitive result even with PCR, the Health Ministry noted.

Published in Other Norms Written by November 26 2020 0

Colombia President Ivan Duque announced last night (November 25) that the current national regulations aiming to limit Covid-19 infections here will continue through at least February 28, 2021.

The regulations include mandatory mask wearing, social distancing and strict health protocols at all businesses, agencies, in public transport and in public spaces.

While citizens must cooperate in efforts to limit infections, “progress has been made in the multilateral environment in the Covax vaccine program and we are also making progress in the bilateral negotiation processes with pharmaceutical companies,” Duque stated in a nationally televised address.

“We have to avoid at all costs severe outbreaks such as those seen in Europe and some places in North America,” he added.

“We will continue to epidemiologically monitor all behavior in our country, following all the indicators and of course making all the necessary prevention decisions and alerting where cases of increases are seen.

“We are also advancing in the development of vaccination programs, since Colombia also participates as a member of the directing council of the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization.,” he added.

Free Vaccinations

Meanwhile, Colombia’s Health Minister Fernando Ruiz added during the same nationally televised program that the first Covid-19 vaccines will become available in Colombia during the first half of 2021.

The initial vaccination campaign would take “three months, initially covering health workers, those over 60 years of age and the population with co-morbidities,” Ruiz stated.

Population groups that are less-likely to suffer mortality from Covid-19 “could have access to the vaccine in 2022,” according to the Minister.

Once the first groups of higher-risk persons are vaccinated, “then the second phase would come, which seeks to generate herd immunity by vaccinating between 50% and 60% of the rest of the population,” according to the Minister.

Colombia doesn’t have any plan to charge anyone -- even including higher-income groups (strata five and six) -- for vaccinations, he added.

To date, negotiations with pharmaceutical companies have generated commitments to enable initial vaccinations of 15 million people here, he said.

“We have previously signed a confidentiality agreement with Pfizer and with other companies,” he added. The Ministry also has confidentiality agreements with vaccine developers in China and India, he revealed.

Second-Half 2021 Expansion

Meanwhile, Gina Tambini, Colombia’s official delegate to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), explained that various drug developers world-wide have to date created more than 200 candidate vaccines.

Of those 200, 77 are in early-stage trials, while another 10 are already in “phase three” clinical trials, she said.

Colombia is part of the “Covax” cooperative-development and distribution program, which aims to produce and distribute some 2 billion doses of vaccines world-wide, she noted.

Through that program, “it is expected and projected that in the middle of the year 2021 -- between the third and fourth trimesters -- vaccines will be available to apply to the [global] population,” she said.

The Covax program already includes a portfolio of nine vaccines, three of which are already in “phase three” trials, including the AstraZeneca laboratory vaccine (University of Oxford); a vaccine from the Moderna laboratory; and another from the Novavax laboratory, she added.

Published in Other Norms Written by November 05 2020 0

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.

Published in Other Norms Written by October 29 2020 0

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.

Published in Other Norms Written by October 27 2020 0

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.

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