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Other Norms 53

Published in Other Norms Written by June 03 2021 0

Colombia Health Minister Fernando Ruiz announced this morning (June 3) that Colombia has abolished the current mandate for airports to demand that international passenger arrivals must have passed a PCR test against Covid-19 infections -- and likewise will no longer require “Coronapp” cell-phone health data for domestic airline passengers.

Simultaneously, Minister Ruiz revealed that under new rules, cities can begin reactivating many types of businesses and events – under certain conditions -- which heretofore have been banned or severely restricted because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Under the new “Decree 580” and “Resolution 777” rules, cities that have more-than 85% occupancy of intensive care units (ICUs) cannot undergo “total reactivation” starting next week -- contradicting a June 1 public proclamation made by Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero claiming that Medellin will have “total reactivation” starting June 8.

The obstacle: Medellin and Antioquia have ICU capacities well over 90% because of continuing high levels of Covid-19 cases, according to the most recent Antioquia departmental data.

“As long as a municipality is above 85%, all restrictive measures are maintained, especially in what has to do with bars, discos, events and crowds,” Minister Ruiz explained.

But whenever a municipality falls below 85% of ICU occupancy, then “opening possibilities are generated with capacity adjusted to the progress of the National Vaccination Plan,” according to the new Ministry rule.

“A city lower than an [85% ICU occupancy] percentage can start with 25% capacity for open public events,” according to the Minister. “Even in closed events, recommendations are included where the minimum distance [between people] can be one meter, which increases the capacity,” as is currently allowed for church or synagogue services and gymnasiums, he added.

“For such scenarios there are special measures such as the use of face masks, which is reinforced in the new regulations, ventilation, washing and disinfection of hands, the new minimum distance between people and indications for self-care,” according to the Ministry.

The new rules allow “a safe opening with conditions that allow us to graduate [to more liberal standards] as vaccination grows and as cities pass that third peak” of the current “third wave” of Covid-19 infections, Ruiz explained.

“This does not mean that we cannot have a fourth peak. The impact continues, but also as we manage to vaccinate, advance and finish ‘phase 1’ of vaccination, of these three initial stages where we are with the most vulnerable people, we can surely have an affectation with a lower mortality rate,” he added.

Compulsory and correct use of a face mask, constant hand washing or disinfection and physical distancing are part of the general measures that are maintained under the new rules, he added.

The current lengthy procedures to obtain permits for the holding of events will be replaced by an "index that we are creating, called the 'Resilience Index,' which basically determines how far along a city is advanced in vaccination, how much is the ICU occupation, what is the prevalence of infected people in that city, and the positive testing rate of the virus through tests," he added.

More Vaccines, More Private Options

Meanwhile, millions more vaccines from foreign vendors are arriving in Colombia this week, hence supporting and advancing the National Vaccination Plan, he said.

“Yesterday [June 2] 580,000 Pfizer vaccines arrived in the country and today [June 3] another 500,000 from the same laboratory will arrive. Tomorrow will arrive another 1 million vaccines from AstraZeneca and next Sunday [June 6] another 1 million doses of vaccines arrive from Sinovac,” he revealed.

As for the upcoming plan to allow private companies to vaccinate their employees, this is likely to start by the end of June, he explained.

“At this moment we already have an agreement with a significant number of [companies and employee associations] for vaccines acquired through the contract that the national government has with Sinovac, where progress is being made in the acquisition of 2.5 million vaccines,” he added.

This week, the Health Ministry will issue a resolution “that refines aspects for the vaccination of private individuals,” he explained.

Medellín Mayor ‘Total Reactivation’ Plan Includes Tax Cut Proposal

On a parallel front, Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero announced June 1 that as part of the claimed “total reactivation” of the local economy supposedly starting June 8, new job-building tax cuts for businesses will be proposed to the Medellin City Council this month.

“The incentive for foreign investment will be given through the reduction of the Industry and Commerce Tax for companies that have settled in Medellín,” according to the Mayor’s office.

“We are going to reduce taxes for those who help us to reactivate the economy of the city. We want to encourage technology-based companies to locate in Medellín,” Quintero stated.

The new, five-year tax breaks would apply to “technology-based companies based in the city, including those created last year,” according to the Mayor’s office.

“In the first and second year they will have a discount of 100%, in the third of 80%, in the fourth of 60% and in the fifth of 40%.

“Companies that are located in ‘Orange Development Areas’ (San Ignacio, Comuna 13, Prado and Perpetuo Socorro) will have benefits in the payment of their industrial and commercial obligations. In the first year, the discount will be 100%, in the second, 80%, in the third, 60%, in the fourth, 40%, and in the fifth, 20%.”

The proposal also includes foreign companies that newly set-up and create jobs in Medellín. Such companies “will receive tax benefits for five years, with a discount of 100% in the first year, 80% in the second, 60% in the third, 40% in the fourth and 20% in the fifth,” according to the Mayor’s office.

“It is expected that in mid-June the Medellín Council will have a free hand to proceed with the proposals made to reactivate the city’s economy,” including the expansion of international tourism to the city, the office added.

Published in Other Norms Written by May 25 2021 0

Antioquia Acting Governor Luis Fernando Suarez announced last night (May 24) that while midnight-to-5-am curfews and booze bans continue from today through June 1 (into early June 2), “pico y cedula” shopping restrictions are now lifted.

However, mandatory mask wearing, social distancing and strict public/private health protocols will continue as long as the Covid-19 threat continues, he added.

The new move to lift “pico y cedula” restrictions (limiting daily shopping trips to people with cedulas ending either in odd or even numbers) came after consultations with all the mayors in Antioquia, Governor Suarez said.

The governor meanwhile urged all restaurants, bars and commercial establishments to enforce existing measures to limit the number of people inside such establishments in order to help thwart the spread of Coronavirus.

Colombia Nears 25% Vaccination

Meanwhile, Colombia’s Health Minister Fernando Ruiz added that the nation is nearing its goal of having at least 10 million people initially vaccinated by end-May or early June, with more than one-third of those having gotten the required two doses.

Colombia aims to have at least 70% of its most vulnerable populations vaccinated this year, with the latest “group 3” population (those 50 and older) just now starting to get their shots.

Published in Other Norms Written by May 17 2021 0

Antioquia Acting Governor Luis Fernando Suárez announced late this afternoon (May 17) that the current shopping and curfew restrictions aiming to hobble Covid-19 infections will continue for another week -- until at least 5-am Monday, May 24.

Curfews and booze-sales-bans will continue daily from 10-pm to 5-am, while “pico y cedula” shopping restrictions will continue on odd/even rotations, as in the past week.

Hence people with cedulas ending in even numbers (0,2,4,6,8) can shop on even-numbered days (such as Tuesday, May 18), while odd-numbered cedulas qualify for odd-numbered days.

Restaurants and hotels continue to be exempt from pico-y-cedula. All the other restrictions including mandatory face masks, social distancing and strict health protocols for public and private spaces will continue.

Suárez added that compliance with both personal and public restrictions will continue to aid the recent trend of declining Covid-19 cases.

Published in Other Norms Written by May 03 2021 0

Antioquia Acting Governor Luis Fernando Suarez announced just after noon today (Monday, May 3) that current travel and shopping restrictions will continue tomorrow (Tuesday, May 4) through at least Tuesday, May 11 because of continuing excessive Covid-19 infections.

Under the latest control scheme, “pico y cedula” shopping limits are reimposed on Tuesday, May 4, enabling trips for people with cedulas ending in 0 and 1, while those with cedulas ending in 2 and 3 can shop on Wednesday, May 5. On Thursday, May 6, people with cedulas ending in 4 and 5 can shop.

“Urgent basic food-supply shopping” is allowed on Friday, May 7 for those with cedulas ending in 6 and 7, while “urgent” shopping is also allowed for cedulas ending in 8 and 9 on Saturday, May 8.

Those with cedulas ending in 0 and 1 can do “urgent” shopping on Sunday, May 9, while those with cedulas ending in 2 and 3 can shop on Monday, May 10.

In addition to “pico y cedula” restrictions, curfews and liquor-sales bans are imposed daily from 8pm to 5am May 4 to May 6, then continually from 8pm  Friday, May 7 to 5 am Tuesday, May 11, according to the Governor.

As in recent Covid-19 restrictions, home deliveries of food and medicines are allowed, along with emergency and authorized trips.

Published in Other Norms Written by April 25 2021 0

Antioquia Governor Luis Fernando Suárez announced last night (April 24) that metro Medellin, the “oriente” region and the rest of Antioquia will continue restrictions on movements to Monday, May 3 because of overwhelming cases of Covid-19.

Curfews and bans on liquor sales will continue from 8 pm to 5 am daily to April 29.

Simultaneously, starting Monday, April 26, “pico y cedula” shopping restrictions only enable people with cedulas ending in 0 and 1 to make shopping trips.

On Tuesday, April 27, people with cedulas ending in 2, 3 and 4 can go shopping, while on Wednesday, April 28, shopping is permitted for those with cedulas ending in 5, 6 or 7.

On Thursday, April 29, shopping is permitted only for cedulas ending in 8 and 9.

As for Friday April 30, Saturday May 1 and Sunday May 2, a total quarantine is declared-- except for essential workers -- although home-delivery of food and medicines is allowed, along with emergency trips and authorized trips.

On the morning of May 1, Governor Suarez further announced a new order that abolishes a previous order that had allowed "essential food item" trips on Friday, April 30 and Sunday, May 2 for people with cedulas ending in even-numbers. The new order likewise abolishes shopping-trip rights for those with cedulas ending in odd numbers on Saturday, May 1. Only home deliveries and emergency trips are permitted on those days.

Hospitals jammed with Covid patients meanwhile report a critical shortage of oxygen tanks, partly because some now-recovered patients previously receiving home care have failed to return tanks to oxygen suppliers, Suarez warned.

As a result, even more extreme quarantine measures are being considered for all Colombia, while Antioquia might extend the current, existing restrictions to May 10, he cautioned.

Published in Other Norms Written by April 18 2021 0

Antioquia Acting Governor Luis Fernando Suárez announced April 18 that starting tomorrow (April 19) the Medellin metro area as well as the rest of Antioquia will continue enforcing the same, existing restrictions on movements until Monday, April 26, to help stem rising cases of Covid-19.

Under the extended scheme, quarantines and bans on liquor sales continue daily from 8 pm to 5 am from now until Thursday, April 22, then a complete lockdown (except for urgent food-supply trips) takes effect from 8 pm Thursday until 5 am Monday, April 26.

“Pico y cedula” shopping limits will apply from Monday, April 19 for people with cedulas ending in 0 and 1. Then, on Tuesday, April 20, people with cedulas ending in 2, 3 and 4 can venture-out on routine supply-runs.

On Wednesday, April 21, people with cedulas ending in 5, 6 and 7 can shop, while on Thursday, April 22, people with cedulas ending in 8 and 9 can shop.

On Friday April 23 and Sunday April 25, people with cedulas ending in odd numbers can make urgent supply runs (only basic foods and medicines), while those with cedulas ending in even numbers can venture-out on Saturday, April 24 for urgent food supplies.

Medellin and Antioquia continue to suffer from an overwhelming number of cases of Covid-19, which explains the continuing restrictions, Gov. Suárez added.

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 (, 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.

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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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