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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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Colombia’s Health Ministry announced August 30 that passengers traveling to San Andres island -- or any other Colombian Department (state) with special vulnerability to Covid-19 outbreaks -- must get a Coronavirus test within 48 hours prior to boarding the aircraft.

What’s more, “pilot” international flights starting in September will require passengers to pass a Covid-19 test prior to boarding any such flight, the Interior Ministry announced.

Such restrictions potentially could expand beyond certain areas to include many more domestic flights – not just international flights -- if mayors and governors in certain areas decide that passenger flights threaten to cause more Covid-19 outbreaks.

According to the new Health Ministry bulletin, “for those Departments with a Covid-19 contagion rate of less than 1,000 per 100,000 inhabitants and whose main access route from other departments is only by air, a special protocol is established in order to protect the population.

“People who wish to travel to these destinations must have a Covid-19 antigen test, which must be negative. The result of the test should not be greater than 48 hours before boarding the plane, and it should be carried out by the laboratories provided by the EPS [health insurance network].

“The cost of the test will be assumed during the first 60 days by the [Colombia] health system. Authorization for taking the tests will be made with the purchase and issuance of the ticket.
Alternatively, the person may pay for the test with their own resources,” according to the Ministry.

Test results “will be sent to Coronapp [cell-phone application] and will be delivered to travelers, who must present the result before boarding the plane.

“If the result is positive, [then] you will not be able to make the trip and will have to refrain from showing up at the airport and maintain isolation at home.

“Installation of the Coronapp application is mandatory for at least one member of the family or group where they must register the trip and present [evidence of the installed application] at the airport.”

On a parallel track, origin and destination airport personnel must take body-temperature readings and screen for possible Covid-19 symptoms, according to the Ministry.

“All biosafety protocols must also be complied with by both workers and travelers, which include permanent hand washing, physical distancing, avoiding crowds and permanent and correct use of masks,” according to the Ministry.

“In the event that a traveler exhibits symptoms before the flight, this person must immediately inform the airline, as well as their EPS, and consequently this person will not be able to fly. If this situation occurs at the destination and the result of a Covid-19 test is positive, [then] that person or more members of that family must do strict isolation-in-place as determined by the local authorities.

“In this case, it is the traveler who will assume the cost of the isolation process. In addition, the airline must reissue the return ticket to the city of origin only after the period of isolation or quarantine has ended, determined by the health authority,” according to the Ministry.

Travel to San Andrés

From the first week of September, flights to San Andrés are now allowed, the Ministry noted.

“For those travelers to this destination, it is important to take into account the following protocol:

“1. Once the air ticket is purchased, the antigen test for Covid-19 must be performed, the result of which, in order to travel, must be negative. In addition, this result cannot be greater than 48 hours prior to your trip. To take the test, consider the following steps:

“2. Contact the following phone lines: in Bogotá (1) 307-7171; Medellín (4) 448-6115 – 444-7428, and Cali (2) 386-5666, to schedule the appointment for taking this sample.

“3. Taking the sample is free and can be done in person at the laboratory, at an autolab (without having to get out of the vehicle) or at home, for which an additional cost must be paid. The result of the test will arrive to your email, six hours after the taking.

“4. On the day of your trip, show up at the airport with your identity document, ticket and the result of the Covid-19 test. Without these documents you will not be able to travel.

“5. During the stay on San Andres island, if one of the members of the traveling group has symptoms, then they should contact their EPS or go to a hospital.

“6. In case of positive Covid-19 test results, strict isolation will be carried out at the Iguana Gorda hotel [on San Andres island] in order to activate the protocol and the airline will extend the ticket until this period is completed,” according to the Ministry.

International Flight ‘Pilot’ Tests

Meanwhile, Colombia President Ivan Duque announced August 30 that a few “pilot” test flights to and from international destinations will begin in September.

“We are going to begin to reestablish those international flights,” Duque said during a nationally televised address on the Covid-19 situation.

“Obviously, the [international flights] will not yet be as dynamic, fully, as we had before the pandemic,” he said.

“We are already identifying those routes. We have already had requests from [the Mayors of] Barranquilla, Cartagena, Medellín [and] Pereira,” he said.

Ministry of the Interior spokesman Daniel Palacios added during the broadcast that all major and many smaller airports in Colombia will be open as of September 1.

“We are developing biosecurity protocols for international flights where, at a minimum, there will have to be a negative test (of Covid-19) by the traveler entering the national territory,” Palacios said.


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About Medellin Herald

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.

Medellin Herald welcomes your editorial contributions, comments and story-idea suggestions. Send us a message using the "contact" section.

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