Wednesday, July 15, 2020

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Because of rising cases of Covid-19 in the Medellin metro area, Area Metropolitana de Valle de Aburra (AMVA, the regional government coordinating agency) announced July 11 that “pico y cedula” shopping liberties effectively will be slashed by 80% weekly.

Rather than allowing odd-and-even-numbered cedula rotations every-other-day (as announced only a week ago), now only two cedula numbers will be allocated each day -- rather than five – effectively slashing personal weekly shopping-and-errands excursions by 80%.

As a result, only people with cedulas ending in 0 and 1 can venture out on Monday, July 13, while people with cedulas ending on 2 or 3 can venture out on Tuesday, July 14 (see chart, above).

The AMVA regulation applies to Barbosa, Girardota, Copacabana, Bello, Medellín, Envigado, Itagüí, Sabaneta, La Estrella and Caldas.

The drastic reduction comes in response to “increases in Covid-19 cases and the accelerated occupation of intensive care units (ICUs) in the Aburrá Valley,” according to AMVA.

The decision came after a July 11 meeting “held by the leaders of Medellín and Antioquia and with President Iván Duque, based on avoiding crowds, saturation in the health system and promoting self-care. Which means that the ‘pico-y-cedula’ that was originally designed to run through August 2 is modified by this new decision.

“For the weekend corresponding to July 18, 19 and 20, which coincides with a public holiday and the special shopping day without VAT [value-added tax], guidelines that the national government will take next week are awaited,” according to AMVA.

Meanwhile, Antioquia Acting Governor Luis Fernando Suárez and Medellín Mayor Daniel Quintero issued a joint statement declaring that “mayors are in favor of enacting more restrictive measures for that [July 18-20] weekend and the following weekend, throughout the metropolitan territory.”

The joint meeting of Medellin metro-area mayors also decided that “mayors will define in which sectors or communes biosecurity measures will be used to contain the contagion figures that have increased exponentially in recent days. And, according to data from experts, these next three weeks will be very critical for the region, the department of Antioquia and in general for the country.”

The Antioquia departmental government also might take more-restrictive measures “depending on the behavior of the occupation of ICU [capacity] and the increase in [Covid-19 case] numbers,” according to the AMVA press bulletin.

AMVA also urged that “the entire population of the Aburrá Valley and all Antioquia [take] extreme self-care measures” including work-from-home, rather than commuting.

In a separate announcement via his Twitter account, Medellin Mayor Quintero revealed that the Avenue 80 Clinic -- exclusively dedicated to Covid-19 patients -- will now open starting Monday, July 13.

In addition, the downtown area (Candelaria neighborhood) now will be banned for circulation by anyone except those shopping for groceries, medicines and basic necessities, until at least July 27. Candelaria pedestrian traffic typically exceeds 1 million people on a normal shopping day.


The Medellin Mayor’s Office announced July 1 that it is intensifying biosafety inspections and shutdowns of retail outlets that fail to comply with strict controls designed to thwart Covid-19 infections.

Meanwhile, the Area Metropolitana de Valle de Aburra (AMVA, the Medellin metro government coordinating agency) announced June 30 that “pico y cedula” restrictions will continue on Friday, July 3 – Colombia’s second of three scheduled tax-free shopping days.

This means that in our metro area – including Barbosa, Copacabana, Bello, Medellín, Envigado, Itagüí, Sabaneta, La Estrella and Caldas -- only people with cedulas ending in even-numbers (0,2,4,6,8) can go out shopping on July 3.

On a related front, Colombia President Ivan Duque announced June 29 that shopping for home appliances, computers and cell phones at large-format stores -- on July 3 as well as subsequent tax-free shopping days -- must be done via internet rather than in-person, to avoid dangerous overcrowding. Pickup and delivery of such items also must be staggered over subsequent days in order to avoid overcrowding that otherwise could cause a spike in coronavirus infections, President Duque added.

According to the Medellin Mayor’s Office, “during the coronavirus contingency, 193 establishments have been visited to verify compliance with biosafety protocols” and “27% of the establishments have received closure measures until they apply corrective measures and comply with the [biosafety] norms.”

Medellin Health Secretary Andree Uribe added that special precautions must be taken for the upcoming tax-free sales days.

“It is very important to bear in mind that this process is one of co-responsibility, where citizens carry out all biosecurity measures such as hand washing, social distancing and the use of masks, and the retailers guarantee [biosafety compliance] in the interior [of the store], even when the capacity is 35%, which we have put as maximum for the entrance to the establishments,” she said.

Stores also must comply with Decree 0573 of 2020, which requires entry-and-exit controls along with data capture on every person visiting, which subsequently must be uploaded to the “Medellín Me Cuida” computerized data platform that aids contact-tracing and Covid-outbreak-avoidance.

As for shoppers, the Health Secretary urges people to “wear comfortable garments that are easy to clean and disinfect, avoid using accessories on your hands that make hygiene difficult, make frequent use of antibacterial gels, do not touch your face, avoid constantly adjusting your face mask and remember that social distancing is key, since using only the mask is not enough when the contact is close.

“Upon arrival at the store, verify that the establishment complies with protocols to enter, [including] requests for cedula and ['Medellin Me Cuida'] registration, temperature taking, shoe cleaning, disinfection of hands, close access to sinks, access control to avoid accumulation people inside and good ventilation. If you identify long lines or accumulation of people inside, [then] avoid entering.

“When you get home, remove your shoes, take off your clothes and wash them separately. Take a shower and disinfect the items you purchased.

“In the following days, be very alert to any symptoms and report them immediately. Also, continue to avoid close contacts,” the Health Secretary added.


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

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

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

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

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

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

The new protocol includes many restrictions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Following a nationally televised address last night (May 28), Colombia President Ivan Duque signed “Decree 749” listing 43 industrial, commercial, educational and personal exemptions from the national Covid-19 quarantine starting June 1.

In addition, Transport Minister Angela Orozco announced during the same televised address that international flights to and from Colombia would be allowed starting September 1. Left unexplained is whether, when, how or which of the origin or destination countries actually would allow such flights, or which airlines would participate.

Under the new decree, people 18-to-69-years-old can now perform outdoor exercise three times a week for two hours per day.

Those 70 and older likewise can exercise outdoors three times a week, initially for 30 minutes per day. But this could expand to at least one hour per day following Health Ministry analysis of local or national Covid-19 trends and risks, as outdoor-hours-expansions recently have been extended to other age groups.

In addition, people can use these outdoor excursions for walks with pets, but “only one person per family” is allowed, according to the new decree.

It's still up to local mayors to extend controls such as  "pico y cedula" restrictions for shopping and banking trips. Medellin metro-area mayors likely will make final decisions on "pico y cedula" extensions or revisions this weekend, prior to June 1. But the northern suburb of Bello, Antioquia has already decided to opt-out of "pico y cedula."

Meanwhile, departmental governors and local mayors must coordinate with the Ministry of the Interior on any other possible exceptions following June 1, which potentially might be allowed in certain areas, such as areas without a single case of Covid-19.

However, “mayors with the due authorization of the Ministry of the Interior may suspend the activities or cases” allowed in the list of exceptions.

For example: If any municipality suffers a new outbreak of Covid-19 that might be tied to certain activities, then the Health Ministry will send a report to the Interior Ministry, following which “the Interior Ministry will order the mayor to close the respective activities or cases.”

The decree also bans operation of “establishments and commercial premises for recreation and entertainment, bars, discos, dance, leisure and entertainment and games of gambling and betting, billiards, casinos, bingo and video game terminals,” as well as “gyms, swimming pools, spas, saunas, Turkish baths, spas, sports fields, sports centers, mechanical amusement parks and playgrounds,” as well as “cinemas and theaters, sports and group exercise in public parks and recreation areas, contact sports or practicing together.”

“Religious services involving crowds or meetings [also] will not be allowed,” according to the decree.

According to Decree 749, here are the 43 activities exempt from quarantine:

1.Assistance and provision of health services.

2. Acquisition and payment of goods and services. A single person per family will be allowed to carry out these activities.

3. Assistance and care for children, adolescents, people over 70 years of age, people with disabilities and patients with special treatments that require assistance from trained personnel. When such persons must leave a place of residence or isolation, they may do so accompanied by a person who serves as support.

4. Activities due to force majeure or fortuitous event.

5. The tasks of the medical missions of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and of all international humanitarian and health organizations, the provision of public and private professional, administrative, operational, and technical health services.

6.- The chain of production, supply, storage, transportation, marketing and distribution of medicines, pharmaceuticals, supplies, cleaning products, disinfection and personal hygiene for homes and hospitals, equipment and devices of health technologies, as well as maintenance and support to guarantee the continuous provision of health services. Also included: operation of establishments and commercial premises for the commercialization of medicines, pharmaceuticals, supplies, equipment and devices of health technologies.

7. Activities related to emergency services, including veterinary emergencies.

8. Funeral services, burials and cremations.

9. The chain of production, supply, storage, transport, commercialization and distribution of: inputs to produce basic necessities, including food, beverages, medicines, medical devices, cleaning, cleaning, and goods of ordinary consumption in the population; laboratory reagents; food, medicines and other products for pets, as well as the elements and goods necessary to attend to the sanitary emergency, and the chain of supplies related to the production of these goods.

10. The chain of sowing, fumigation, harvesting, production, packaging, packaging, import, export, transport, storage, distribution and marketing of: seeds, inputs and agricultural, fishing, aquaculture, livestock and agrochemical products including fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, and animal feed, maintenance of animal health, the operation of primary and secondary food processing centers, the operation of the commercialization infrastructure, major and minor irrigation for the supply of population and agricultural water, and the technical assistance. The logistics and transportation of the above activities will be guaranteed. Likewise, the maintenance activities of boats and agricultural or fishing machinery.

11. The face-to-face marketing of basic necessity products will be carried out in stores, warehouses, markets, wholesale and retail supermarkets and retail markets in establishments and commercial premises nationwide, and they may market their products through electronic commerce platforms and/or for home delivery.

12. The activities of public servants, government contractors, individuals who perform public functions and other personnel necessary to prevent, mitigate and attend to the health emergency due to the covid-19 coronavirus, and guarantee the operation of governmente services.

13.The activities of the personnel of the diplomatic and consular missions duly accredited to the Colombian State, strictly necessary to prevent, mitigate and attend to the health emergency due to the covid-19 coronavirus.

14. The activities of the military forces, the national Police and state security agencies, as well as the military and defense industry, and officials of the Attorney General's Office and the National Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences.

15. The activities of public and private service ports, exclusively for cargo transportation.

16. Maritime and river dredging activities.

17. The execution of transport infrastructure works and public works, as well as the supply chain of materials and supplies related to their execution.

18. The activities of the construction sector, execution of civil works and the remodeling of buildings, as well as the supply of materials and supplies exclusively destined for their execution.

19. The air and airport operation in accordance with the provisions of article 8 of the decree, and their respective maintenance.

20. The commercialization of the products of gastronomic establishments and premises, including those located in hotels, through electronic commerce platforms, by home delivery and by take-away delivery.

21. The activities of the hotel industry to serve its guests strictly necessary to prevent, mitigate and attend the health emergency due to the covid-19 coronavirus.

22. The operation of critical infrastructure including computers, computer systems, communication networks, data and information, whose destruction or interference can weaken or impact the security of the economy, public health or a combination of them.

23. The operation of call centers, contact centers, technical support centers and data processing centers that provide services in the national territory and electronic commerce platforms.

24. The operation of the provision of private security and surveillance services, prison and penitentiary services.

25. Cleaning and toilet services, including domestic service and laundry service.

26. The activities necessary to guarantee the operation, maintenance, storage and supply of the provision of public services of aqueduct, sewage, electric energy, public lighting, cleanliness (collection, transportation, use and final disposal, recycling, including biological waste or sanitary) and recovery of materials; of the logistics chain of inputs, supplies for the production, supply, import, export and supply of hydrocarbons, liquid fuels, biofuels, natural gas, Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG); of the supply logistics chain, supplies for the production, supply, import, export and supply of minerals, and internet and telephone service.

27. The provision of services: banking; financial; payment postal operators; currency buying and selling professionals; operations of [lottery] games of luck and chance in the form of novel and territorial permanent bets; chance and lottery; transport of valuables; notarial activities and registration of public instruments, and issuance of urban planning licenses.

The Superintendent of Notaries and Registry will determine the hours and shifts in which notarial services will be provided, guaranteeing the provision of the service to the most vulnerable people and those with special constitutional protection.

28. The operation of postal, courier, radio, television, press and distribution services of the media.

29. The supply and distribution of basic necessities -- food, beverages, medicines, medical devices, hygiene, cleaning, and goods of ordinary consumption in the population -- under social programs of the State and private persons.

30. The activities of the interreligious sector related to institutional emergency programs, humanitarian, spiritual and psychological aid.

31. The production, supply, storage, repair, maintenance, transport and distribution chain of manufacturing industries.

32. Wholesale and retail trade, including the operation of shopping centers and real estate activities.

33. The activities of operators of payments of wages, fees, pensions, public and private economic benefits; periodic social economic benefits (BEPS), and those corresponding to the Social Security and Social Protection systems and subsystems.

34. The strictly necessary displacement of the directing and teaching staff of public and private educational institutions, to prevent, mitigate and attend to the health emergency due to the covid-19 coronavirus.

35. In accordance with the measures, instructions and schedules established by the mayors in their respective territorial jurisdictions, and in any case subject to the biosafety protocols established for this purpose, the following will be allowed:

• Physical activities and outdoor exercise of people who are in the age range of 18 to 69 years, for a maximum period of two hours a day.
• Physical activities and outdoor exercise of children over 6 years old, three times a week, one hour a day.
• Physical activities and outdoor exercise of children between 2 and 5 years old, three times a week, half an hour a day.
• Physical activities and outdoor exercise of adults over 70 years, three times a week, half an hour a day.

36. The carrying out of appraisals of goods and carrying out of studies of titles that have the purpose of the constitution of guarantees, before entities supervised by the Financial Superintendence of Colombia.

37. The operation of communal police stations and police inspections, as well as their users.

38. The manufacture, repair, maintenance and purchase and sale of spare parts and accessories for conventional and electric bicycles.

39. Public parking for vehicles.

40. Museums and libraries.

41. Practical and research laboratories of institutions of higher education and education for work and human development.

42. Professional, technical and service activities in general.

43. Hairdressing services.


Colombia Transport Minister Ángela María Orozco announced last night (May 20) in a nationally televised presentation on Coronavirus regulations that regular international passenger flights to and from Colombia will be banned through August 31.

The surprising announcement came just one day after President Ivan Duque stated that international and national flights -- except for rare emergencies and humanitarian repatriations -- would be banned at least through June 30.

However, aside from allowing repatriation and emergency flights, Colombia also continues talks with various air transport regulators and health regulatory officials on potential ways to reopen passenger air traffic, she said.

In the same televised presentation, President Duque and Commerce (MinCIT) Minister Jose Manuel Restrepo added that starting June 1 – in coordination with local mayors – shopping centers can start to reopen, but with maximum 30% capacity in order to avoid crowding and cross-contamination.

Medical specialties such as dentistry also would begin to reopen under strict health protocols from June 1, along with wholesale and retail operations (30% capacity limit), barber/beauty parlors (30% capacity limit) and other commercial operations.

On another front, Colombia’s Health Minister Fernando Ruiz announced during the same broadcast that new guidelines to contain Covid-19 have been issued for family homes.

Rationale: More Colombians are returning to work under biosafety rules and local mayor approvals, while children are now permitted to go outside three times/week and also will start returning to schools under alternating physical/virtual schedules in August.

The new biosafety guidelines “consider the new scenario, in which children can go out and some members of the household are authorized to resume work activities outside the home and must use means of transportation,” according to the Health Ministry.

The new advisory includes recommendations on personal washing, disinfection of the home and bathrooms, pets, prevention measures when entering and leaving the home and measures for users of private vehicles, motorcycles and bicycles.

"It also includes aspects at a psychosocial level such as the need to share domestic tasks and chores, free-time management and the balance of time in educational and work tasks and care-giver rotation,” Ruiz added.

In addition, the Ministry is developing new guidelines so that starting June 1, people 70 years and older -- and children 5 years and younger -- can start to escape quarantine for limited periods.


Colombia President Ivan Duque announced May 19 in a nationwide address that Colombia will transition from Covid-19 "general quarantine" to potentially less-severe, city-specific “health emergency” regulations starting June 1 through August 31.

Differences between “quarantine” and “health emergency” regulatory limits could prove to be relatively great in areas lacking Covid-19 threats. But regulations likely will be less liberal in other areas with greater relative problems and challenges with Covid-19.

For example: Mayors of big cities such as Medellin, Bogota and Cali likely would continue to enforce relatively stricter limits than those in rural areas, although “gradual reopenings” likely will expand to more economic sectors in both big and small cities.

Schools for example could start to offer limited in-person, physical attendance with alternating shifts -- along with mandatory masks and physical distancing -- perhaps alternating with “virtual classes,” starting in August, President Duque explained.

Likewise, libraries and museums could reopen with strict limits on total people entering, along with mandatory masks and other prevention measures, he said.

Meanwhile, all international and national passenger flights will continue to be banned through at least June 30, except for rare cases of emergencies or humanitarian repatriations, President Duque clarified.

However, President Duque also announced two days earlier in a separate nationwide address that international travel continues to be the most problematic. Therefore, it’s possible that Colombia could announce further bans or restrictions on international flights well beyond June 30.

One key reason: Such flights don’t depend solely upon Colombia decisions, President Duque explained. Rather, international flight health-protective standards and protocols must be developed in coordination with International Air Transport Association (IATA), various airlines, various airports, transport sector employees, the World Health Organization (WHO), various national governments and health regulators in various states or cities. What's more, Colombia might decide to have even tougher limits.

While Colombia’s national Covid-19 quarantine presumptively had been set to expire May 24, the new order extends it to May 31.

This means that metro Medellin and other big cities here are likely to extend “pico y cedula” shopping-days rotations for at least another week beyond May 24 – and possibly even beyond that.

Persons 70 years and older likewise will have mandatory quarantine extended through June 30, along with younger persons with pre-existing health conditions such as heart trouble and diabetes, President Duque said.

Public transport likewise will continue with a 35% capacity limit, while schools and universities will continue with “virtual” classes through all of June and July.

At least 80% of public employees likewise must continue telecommuting, while private-sector office workers also should continue to work from home whenever possible, he added.

Meanwhile, as of May 19, the Health Ministry had recorded 16,935 Coronavirus cases nationally, with 613 deaths and 4,050 recoveries.

Bogota leads with 5,934 cases, followed by Atlantico (1,923), then Cali/Valle del Cauca (1,883), then Bolivar (1,576), Amazonas (1,220); Meta (954) and Medellin/Antioquia (561).


Some 15 million Colombians could be freed from Coronavirus quarantine this month as a result of new flexibility measures for certain economic sectors as well as for some 800 municipalities that (to date) haven’t had a single case of Covid-19.

This "Covid-free-area" exemption potentially would include large areas of rural Antioquia -- but not in Medellin, nor its heavily populated metro-area municipalities.

So explained Colombia President Ivan Duque, Colombia Vice President Marta Lucia Ramirez, Health Minister Fernando Ruiz and “MinCIT” Commerce Minister Jose Manuel Restrepo in a 6 pm May 5 nationwide televised address.

Among the industrial sectors that can start to escape quarantine starting May 11: Automobile and auto-parts manufacturing, furniture manufacturing, clothing manufacture, machinery manufacturing, electronics manufacturing and repair, construction-materials manufacturing, marine equipment repair, vehicle diagnostics centers, industrial laundries (with home-delivery-only option), bookstores, office-supply stores and hardware stores -- and, in some 800 municipalities free of Covid-19, almost any other type of commerce (except for bars, billiard halls, discoteques, sit-down restaurants or mass events such as concerts).

However, the mayors of such Covid-free cities first must petition the Health Ministry and the Interior Ministry to allow such businesses to reopen, once these business prove that they are complying with the new biosafety protocols. Only following Health Ministry review would such businesses be allowed to reopen.

What’s more, over this coming week, the Health Ministry will be unveiling new biosafety protocols for many more industries and commercial operations throughout Colombia.

With these new protocols, mayors in many more cities -- starting May 11 -- can begin the process of reopening many more sectors, beyond the existing exemptions for manufacturing, construction, agriculture, food manufacture, freight transport, public services, supermarkets, pharmacies, hospitals, utilities, public transport and safety.

These local mayors in Colombia will be empowered to open-up more businesses only if the businesses first meet new-and-upcoming biosafety protocols. In addition, such reopenings must not cause public transport to exceed the current 35% capacity limit designed to thwart Coronavirus infections.

Medellin, for example, is well-below the 35% limit today, at just 22% of capacity, Health Minister Ruiz revealed. Bogota likewise is only at 21% currently.

Beyond new industrial/commercial reopenings, personal reopenings are also starting May 11: Children between six and 17 years old will now be allowed to go outdoors for 30 minutes, three times per week, when accompanied by a healthy, low-risk (60 years age maximum), responsible adult, Ruiz added.

“Between May 11 and May 25, we are going to extend the mandatory preventive quarantine, but recovering productive and living spaces – and doing so with the responsibility of continuing to protect life and continue to protect health,” President Duque said.

“We are going to give other sectors the opportunity also to boost our economy and there we are going to have industrial sectors,” he added.

“Pico y cedula” restrictions in cities such as Medellin and Bogota thus will continue beyond May 11, but now will give people the option to go to bookstores, office-supply stores, hardware stores and pet stores, in addition to existing permissions for grocery, banking and pharmacy trips, he added.

Current bans on international and national flights will continue at least through May 30, as well as mandatory quarantines for school-age students, people with severe existing health problems, and people 70 years and older.

According to the Ministry of Commerce, here is the complete list of economic subsectors that will start to open following May 11:

1. Manufacture of furniture, mattresses and bed frames;
2. Manufacture of motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers;
3. Manufacture of computer, electronic and optical products;

4. Manufacture of machinery and equipment;
5. Maintenance and repair of motor vehicles;
6. Maintenance and repair of technology and computer equipment;

7. Wholesale and retail trade of vehicles (including parts, pieces and accessories);
8. Wholesale trade of furniture and household goods;
9. Wholesale trade of machinery and equipment;

10. Retail trade of pet products;
11. Retail trade of construction materials, hardware, locksmiths and glass and paint products in specialized stores;
12. Retail trade of fuels, lubricants, additives and cleaning products for motor vehicles in specialized establishments;

13. Retail trade of books, newspapers, stationery, supplies and desks in specialized stores;
14. Laundry services for home delivery only;
15. Establishments providing vehicle maintenance services, appliances, boats, agricultural or fishing machinery,  as well as establishments supplying and/or installing vehicle spare parts;
16. Automotive diagnostic centers.


Medellin-based banking giant Bancolombia announced April 27 that it has approved COP$17.4 trillion (US$4.3 billion) in payroll-coverage loans to 293,000 small, medium and independent businesses in Colombia via a new National Guarantee Fund (FNG) Coronavirus-crisis program.

Under the FNG program, the government of Colombia is assuming 90% of the payback risk, thus helping banks to aid micro, small, medium and sole-proprietor businesses (SMEs) to pay workers temporarily idled by the Coronavirus crisis.

President Ivan Duque announced April 21 that “with a 90% guarantee, to finance those payrolls of the SMEs, there is no excuse for [banks and lenders] not doing so. We also understand the prudence that risk analyses should be done, but we also need to reconcile these quickly.”

In the wake of Duque's remarks about some slowness in lender loan-request response times during the Coronavirus crisis, Bancolombia -- Colombia’s biggest bank – has since responded to a tidal wave of loan requests covered by the new FNG program.

“We are inviting SMEs, businesses and independents to use this [credit] line to secure employment and pay their payroll as this should be a priority,” said Bancolombia Business Vice-President Cristina Arrastía.

The new payroll-coverage loan deal carries a term of up-to-36-months and annual interest rates varying from 7.66% to 12.9%, she said.

“We know that in Colombia SMEs generate 80% of employment and that companies have different needs to continue operating in the midst of this situation.

“This [program] means having more resources to meet short-term needs by having better cash flow, with significant reductions in annual interest payments. Those interested should call their [Bancolombia] account executive for the details of how to access or they can call the phone line 01-800-0912345 without leaving home,” she added.

To access the special credit line, applicants must prove their current payroll -- by providing a copy of Colombia’s mandatory Integrated Contribution Settlement Return (PILA) of the previous month -- and also provide continuing proof of payment of their financed payroll.

President Duque added in his April 21 comments on the new FNG program that Colombia’s Superfinanciera financial regulatory agency “will monitor whether the credits for financing the payrolls of MSMEs are being carried out.”

In addition, the national government has also boosted credit capacity with Banco Agrario and Bancóldex to help agricultural producers and exporting companies confront the current crisis, he added.


 

Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero announced April 24 a novel computerized registration scheme – unique in all Colombia -- for all employers and employees in the construction and manufacturing sectors that are reopening for business on April 27 in the Valle de Aburra metro area.

Employers are now registering their businesses (and their employees) at https://www.medellin.gov.co/irj/portal/medellin/acceso-formulario-permisos-empresas while employees also are registering themselves at https://www.medellin.gov.co/medellinmecuida/.

With this computerized information, enforcement officials will be able to track and control movements to-and-from workplaces as well as limit use of the Metro public transport system only to people authorized to venture out to work -- as well as those authorized for grocery, drugs and banking on “pico y cedula” days.

Companies that lack the new “Medellinmecuida” registrations will be shut down and fined, while individual persons lacking this registration likewise will be fined, he said.

In addition, registered companies that detect two or more cases of workers with Coronavirus will be shut down for at least 14 days, Mayor Quintero explained.

An estimated 800,000 people in the Medellin metro area are likely to make work trips starting April 27 -- thanks to the restart of manufacturing and construction sectors as allowed by new Colombian government regulations, Quintero said.

To aid enforcement and limit potential Coronavirus infections, Medellin police will have a new cell-phone app that can read and determine instantaneously whether any person stopped on the street, on the Metro system or at work is authorized to be circulating. Likewise, the Metro “Civica” card used to access the public transit system can be read by the same cell-phone app, thus helping to limit potential crowding and cross-infections.

Any non-complying person found on these detection sweeps will have their “Civica” card deactivated -- and if there’s Coronavirus symptoms detected on this person, then the employer’s business also can be shuttered.

While telecommuting is mandated by the national government wherever possible during this crisis, relatively Coronavirus-free bicycling options also are expanding with new dedicated bike lanes and every-10-minutes disinfections of the “Encicla” free bicycles tied to Medellin’s “Metro” system, Quintero added.

Simultaneously, “pico y placa” restrictions on vehicles also are being lifted to enable more people to avoid overcrowding on the “Metro” system, Quintero added.

Meanwhile, according to Colombia’s Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism (MinCIT), seven more sub-sectors of manufacturing are returning to work on April 27, including textiles and clothing; leather and shoe-making; woodworking; paper and cardboard manufacture; chemicals manufacture; metalworking; and manufacture of electrical equipment.

These businesses can stay open only if they meet strict, new Ministry of Health biosafety protocols including mandatory use of facemasks, workplace disinfection, worker health detection, removal of workers with symptoms, distancing rules and adherence to the 35% limit on mass transport capacity.

It’s up to local mayors and departmental governors to enforce these new biosafety protocols in coordination with Health Ministry officials and local and departmental health authorities, MinCIT Minister Jose Manuel Restrepo added.

These mayors and governors can shut-down any company or any industry that isn’t complying with these biosafety measures, he said.

On the other hand, companies that voluntarily decide not to reopen would forfeit access to multiple credit and financing programs created by the national government in response to the Coronavirus crisis, he added.

These industry/company shut-down rule provisions in the new MinCIT rules could for example help mayors to address fears about the health impacts of the partial economic reopening of construction and manufacturing sectors on April 27.

For example, Bogota Mayor Claudia Lopez -- who is publicly fighting with President Ivan Duque over the partial reopening --  presumably could shutter manufacturing by citing her claims that the manufacturing industry in Bogota isn’t nearly ready to comply with biosafety rules on April 27. Nor is Bogota’s public transit system ready to accept a big surge of passengers, according to Mayor Lopez.


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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.

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