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Other Norms 34

Published in Other Norms Written by April 13 2021 0

Antioquia Acting Governor Luis Fernando Suárez announced that starting today (April 13) the Medellin metro area as well as the rest of Antioquia will enforce continuing restrictions on movements until Monday, April 19 to help stem rising cases of Covid-19.

Under the new scheme, quarantines and bans on liquor sales take effect daily from 8 pm to 5 am from now until Thursday, April 15, then a complete lockdown (except for urgent food trips) takes effect from 8 pm Thursday until 5 am Monday, April 19.

“We are in the worst moment of the pandemic,” Suárez said, adding that “the next two weeks will be the most complicated in occupation of ICU [intensive care unit] beds.”

“Pico y cedula” shopping limits continue from Tuesday, April 13, meaning those with cedulas ending in 0, 1, 2 and 3 can venture-out on routine supply-runs today.

On Wednesday (April 14), those with cedulas ending in 4, 5 and 6 can shop, while those with cedulas ending in 7, 8 and 9 can shop on Thursday, until 8 pm, when stricter quarantine begins.

For urgent supply runs (only basic foods and medicines), those with cedulas ending in even numbers can venture-out on Friday, April 16, and Sunday, April 18, while those with cedulas ending in odd numbers can make urgent food/medicine supply runs on Saturday, April 17, he added.

Published in Other Norms Written by April 01 2021 0

Colombia’s on-again, off-again mandate for all international passenger arrivals to pass a PCR test against Covid-19 is – yes indeed – on again.

In an April 1 official bulletin from Colombia’s Health Ministry, the Ministry now insists that all airline passengers must have passed a PCR test within 96 hours of boarding an international flight to Colombia, or else face mandatory quarantine here.

This in spite of the Ministry recently having won an Appeals Court decision last month overturning a prior lower-court order that had mandated PCR tests since January 2021.

However, despite that Appeals Court ruling, Colombia’s border control agency (Migracion Colombia) hadn’t abolished the PCR test mandate. Reason: Migracion Colombia had never received an official order from the Health Ministry to rescind the requirement.

New, even-more dangerous Covid-19 variants from Brazil, South Africa, the UK and elsewhere explain the new decision to keep the PCR mandate, according to the Ministry.

“Given the appearance of the new variants and the contact with people of different origins in closed spaces, despite the ventilation of the airplanes, this forces us to take extreme measures,” stated Health Ministry epidemioglogy director Julián Alfredo Fernández Niño.

“Due to the pandemic, we had had several administrative acts for domestic flights that were updated and also two for international flights. Now we are merging into one, with specific recommendations that go into effect on April 7, 2021,” Fernández added.

For example: Prior restrictions banning the use of on-board entertainment systems are no longer necessary if such systems “are properly disinfected” by airline personnel, he said. Additionally, blankets once again can be used aboard flights, “subsequent to disinfection, given that the evidence of contagion by surfaces is little,” according to the Ministry.

“On the other hand, some recommendations are maintained, such as passengers keeping silent while on the plane. Likewise, on flights of more than two hours in which people can eat, they must do so at intervals assigned by rows, to avoid having all people remove their masks at the same time.”

Another continuing recommendation is that all passengers wear surgical masks during the flight, and in the case of adults over 60 years of age, N95 masks are specified.

In addition, passengers must continue to update their “CoronApp” data for domestic flights and the “Check-Mig” data for international flights.

“The reason we believe ‘CoronApp’ is effective is because it now connects to the results of Covid-19 samples and reveals whether people have tested positive in the last 14 days,” Fernández added.

As a result, “travelers who have had positive tests in the last 14 days, have been in contact with a suspected case of covid-19 or have symptoms, will not be able to travel,” according to the Ministry.

A complete copy of the new rule (Resolution 411 of 2021) is now published on the Health Ministry’s website (www.minsalud.gov.co), explaining updates to Resolution 1517 of 2020 and Resolution 1627 of 2020 for domestic flights and Resolution 2532 of 2020 and Resolution 002 of 2021 for international flights, as well as Circular 007.

Published in Other Norms Written by March 24 2021 0

Irresponsible behavior including reckless partying and crowding expected during “Semana Santa” in Antioquia specifically and Colombia generally just prompted Medellin and Antioquia to impose “pico y cedula” shopping restrictions starting Thursday, March 25 through Monday, April 5.

Acting Antioquia Governor Luis Fernando Suárez Vélez first announced the new restrictions March 23, then on March 30 announced a further, additional ban on liquor sales from 5 pm to 5 am daily March 31 through April 5, matching a new 5 pm-5 am curfew (except for work commutes and required travels).

 Even before Semana Santa started, Medellin and Antioquia had seen a doubling of Covid-19 daily cases in recent days as too many people foolishly believe that the recent, relatively slow arrival of vaccination campaigns automatically lessens the threat of infections, Governor Suarez pointed out in a press statement.

As a result, “pico y cedula” is being reimposed for routine shopping trips from March 25 through April 5, meaning that people with cedulas ending in odd numbers can shop on odd-numbered days, while those with even-number-ending cedulas can shop on even-numbered days.

However, “the restriction of ‘pico y cedula’ does not apply to enter hotels and restaurants, nor does it apply to go to medical services, to purchase medicines or to attend church services during Holy Week,” although hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, restaurants, hotels and houses of worship still must require face masks and minimum social distances.

Meanwhile, hospital intensive care unit (ICU) occupancy is on a dangerous rise -- now exceeding 80% -- prompting yet another hospital “red alert” for Antioquia, Governor Suárez added.

In addition to “pico y cedula” restrictions, Antioquia also is imposing a curfew from midnight until 5 am daily through April 5.

To avoid fines, people traveling to-or-from their jobs during curfew hours must carry a company card or letter from their employer, while those venturing to an airport for an early-hours flight likewise must show their boarding pass or reservation.

During Semana Santa, “family reunions with more than four or five people are not convenient and the massive departure of people from the metropolitan area to other municipalities on the occasion of Holy Week is not convenient,” Governor Suárez added.

A big surge in infections arising from Semana Santa also would further complicate Covid-19 vaccinations, he warned.

“The biggest challenge that Antioquia has in vaccination will be in April, as tentative figures that we have indicate that between 900,000 and 1 million vaccines will arrive here -- and vaccinating during a high peak of Covid makes the process more complex,” Suárez said.

Antioquia aims to vaccinate about 80,000 people daily during April, he added.

To date, 100% of front-line health workers here have received at least their first shot of Covid-19 vaccine, while the 80-and-over population vaccination rate is at about 80% so far.

In all, Antioquia to date has administered 85% of the 238,971 doses of vaccines it has received from the national “MiVacuna” program organized by the Health Ministry, he added.

Published in Other Norms Written by March 16 2021 0

Colombia President Ivan Duque and Commerce Minister José Manuel Restrepo jointly announced March 15 in a nationally televised address that Colombia has just expanded and improved investment opportunities for new and existing free-trade zones.

“Through Decree 278 of March 15, 2021, the competitiveness of this investment promotion instrument in the country will be improved,” according to a Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism (MinCIT) press bulletin accompanying the announcement.

Among the benefits in the new decree: a 15% reduction in up-front-costs for those investing in such zones.

In all Colombia, Antioquia is the nation's single biggest exporter, hence the new rule would open even more opportunities for foreign and domestic investors.

According to Minister Restrepo, “with this structural advance in the regime, the government contributes to positioning the country at the forefront in the hemisphere for attracting investment, by having a modern instrument that today includes 120 free-trade zones.”

Of those 120, 41 are permanent zones and 79 are “special” zones, of which the term limits have have been extended for five years.

To date, Colombia’s free-trade zone scheme has generated more than 136,000 jobs and attracted COP$48 trillion (US$13.5 billion) in investments in the last 13 years.

The new rules “enable the recognition of intangible assets -- in accordance with the current intellectual property regime -- as part of investment commitments, up to 20% of the new investment,” according to the Ministry.

“Electronic commerce is also allowed in free zones for users of goods and services, through the modality of postal traffic and urgent shipments.

“For new service projects, the possibility of reducing investment commitments is established if exports are made -- effectively channeled through the exchange market each year.

“Additionally, special permanent free zones for services are enabled to become permanent free zones, with the aim of qualifying users who provide services -- mainly for export -- such as science, technology, innovation, culture and knowledge, among others.

“Another novelty is regional development, since the minimum area requirement of 20 hectares is eliminated for the new permanent free zones dedicated exclusively to the provision of services in cities and municipalities with less-than-1-million inhabitants.

“Meanwhile, for new free zone projects located in municipalities with high poverty rates, the investment commitment is reduced by up to 30%. This possibility also applies to the request for the extension of existing free zones in municipalities with this characteristic,” the Ministry added.

Paperwork requirements for free-trade zone investment also is being slashed, to 24 documents (from 57 previously), while processing time is cut to six months, from 18 months previously.

“Additionally, the possibility was opened for the request of new free zones in all types of agro-industrial activities, as well as for airport and rail concessions, the latter subject to regulation,” according to the Ministry.

In addition, “the maximum term for the extension of both permanent and ‘special permanent’ free zones is equalized to 30 years, while free trade zones are allowed to add areas not adjacent to the originally declared space -- provided that said areas are found in the same municipality or in neighboring municipalities within the same customs jurisdiction,” according to the Ministry.

The new scheme “also opens the possibility for existing free zones to request the expansion of the economic activities for which their declaration was authorized,” the Ministry added.

Published in Other Norms Written by March 12 2021 0

Colombia's border control agency Migracion Colombia announced March 13 that it's still awaiting an official order from the Health Ministry that would enable immediate cancellation of the existing Covid-19 PCR test mandate for all international air passenger arrivals to Colombia.

Until Migracion Colombia receives that order, arriving passengers still must pass a PCR test within 96 hours of boarding a flight to Colombia, or else endure a 14-day quarantine upon arrival here. A third option: Get a PCR test here while in quarantine and then await an all-clear test result, usually in 24 to 48 hours, enabling escape from quarantine.

Earlier, a Cundinamarca Administrative Tribunal on March 9 overturned a lower-court order that had forced Colombia’s Ministry of Health to require all air passengers to Colombia to show proof of passing a PCR test against Covid-19 infection.

Air travelers to Colombia have been required to pass a PCR test within 96 hours of boarding an international flight to Colombia since January 2021.

But the Cundinamarca appeals court just revoked that regulation, finding that the original order by the 11th District Court in Bogota mandating PCR tests for international arrivals is unconstitutional.

In the Ministry of Health’s summary of the new ruling, the appeals court found that “the plaintiff did not prove that one or some of his fundamental rights had been violated or threatened” by allowing passengers to enter Colombia without first passing a PCR test.

In addition, the plaintiff “did not prove legitimacy to act in assuming the rights of others, that is, to request constitutional protection in favor of the Colombian population.”

The Health Ministry had appealed the original decision to the Cundinamarca appeals court, arguing that passengers lacking a PCR test in origin countries actually aren’t any more dangerous for spreading disease than people already here, since Covid-19 is now ubiquitous.

Mask wearing, social distancing, work/public-space protocols, and vaccinations instead are the key factors to thwart Covid-19 infections, the Ministry adds.

Published in Other Norms Written by January 20 2021 0

Antioquia Governor Anibal Gaviria announced last night (January 19) that “pico y cedula” shopping restrictions will hit the entire Medellin metro area (including “Oriente”) starting the first minute of Thursday, January 21, until midnight Tuesday, January 26.

In addition, curfews will be imposed from 10 pm today (Wednesday) until 5 am daily through January 26.

As a result, people with cedulas ending in even numbers can go shopping on even-numbered days (including today, Wednesday January 20), while odd-numbered cedulas are green-lighted for shopping on odd-numbered days.

Restaurants and hotels are exempted from pico-y-cedula, as well as essential workers, home-delivery workers and emergency situations.

The mandates hit Medellin and the other nine municipalities in Valle de Aburra, as well as the Oriente (east of Medellin) cities of Rionegro, Marinilla, El Santuario, Guarne, El Carmen de Viboral, El Retiro and La Ceja, according to Governor Gaviria.

This latest extension of pico-y-cedula and curfew regulations are the result of the continuing surge in Covid-19 infections and a dangerously high 91.5% occupancy of intensive care units (ICUs) in local hospitals, he said.

However, “we are beginning to perceive a stabilization [in Covid-19 hospitalizations] that we hope will be maintained -- and we can hope for a little-by-little decline,” Gaviria added.

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.

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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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