COVID-19 pandemic in Colombia
|COVID-19 pandemic in Colombia|
Confirmed cases by departments
Without confirmed cases
500–1 000 confirmed
≥1 000 confirmed
|First outbreak||Wuhan, China (globally) |
Milan, Italy (locally)
|Arrival date||6 March 2020|
(2 months and 3 weeks)
The COVID-19 pandemic in Colombia is part of the worldwide pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The virus was confirmed to have reached Colombia on 6 March 2020. As of 17 March, Colombia is denying entry to those who are not Colombian citizens, permanent residents or diplomats.
On 12 January 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that a novel coronavirus was the cause of a respiratory illness in a cluster of people in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, which was reported to the WHO on 31 December 2019.
On 9 March, two more cases were confirmed.
On 12 March, four more cases were confirmed, two in Bogotá and two in Neiva. Authorities declared a health emergency, suspending all public events involving more than 500 people, as well as implementing measures intended to keep cruise ships from docking in any national port.
On 13 March, three new cases were reported, one in Bogotá, one in Palmira and the other in Villavicencio. President Iván Duque announced that as of 16 March, entry to Colombia will be restricted for visitors who have been in Europe or Asia within the past 14 days. Colombian citizens and residents who have been in Europe or Asia can be admitted into the country, but must undergo a 14-day self-quarantine as a precaution.
Additionally, Duque announced Colombia would shut down all of its border crossings with Venezuela, effective as of 14 March. Associated Press reported that experts are worried that the Venezuelan refugee crisis could boost the spread of the virus.
On the night of 15 March, the Health Ministry announced 11 new cases, bringing the total up to 45. Of those 11, 6 were in Bogotá, 4 in Neiva and 1 in the town of Facatativá. Additionally, President Iván Duque, along with the Ministries of Health and Education, announced suspension of classes for all public and private schools and universities in the country.
On the morning of 16 March, nine new cases were reported in Bogotá. Later that same day, three additional cases were also reported in Bogotá, bringing the total to 57. President Iván Duque declared all land and sea borders be closed in conjunction with the governments of Ecuador, Peru and Brazil. Córdoba, Meta and Santander Departments issued curfews in order to avoid the spread of the virus.
On the morning of 17 March, Colombia's Health Ministry confirmed 8 more cases. Later the same day, they confirmed another 10 cases, bringing the total to 75. Cartagena's mayor extended the curfew, which previously applied only to the tourist city center from 10:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m., to the whole city from 6:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. during weekdays, and for 24 hours during weekends. Bogotá mayor Claudia López, announced a mandatory isolation drill for the extended weekend, from 20 to 23 March. The Bogotá drill allowed exceptions for the elderly and disabled and delivery personnel to move around. Pet owners were authorized to take animals outside for 20 minutes and one person per family could leave to purchase supplies.
On 17 March, at 9:00 PM local time (UTC–5), President Iván Duque spoke to the Colombians and declared the state of emergency, announcing that he would take economic measures that were announced the following day. The first measure taken seeking the protection of the elderly is to decree mandatory isolation from 7:00 AM on 20 March to 31 May for all adults over 70 years of age. They must remain in their residences except to stock up on food or access health or financial services. Government entities were instructed to make it easier for them to receive their pensions, medicines, healthcare or food at home.
On 21 March, the Ministry of Health confirmed the first death from coronavirus in Colombia, a 58-year-old man who worked as a taxi driver in Cartagena who died on 16 March and reportedly carried Italian tourists on his taxi on 4 March. According to authorities, the person started presenting symptoms two days later. Initially, COVID-19 had been dismissed as the cause of his death as he had tested negative for coronavirus, however, his sister had tested positive for the disease. After the patient's decease, the National Health Institute (INS) analyzed two tests from him, both of which were negative with one of those being taken improperly, but decided to keep the investigation open owing to his sister's condition. Eventually, the INS concluded that the taxi driver was her only possible source of contagion, therefore attributing his death to the new virus in spite of the laboratory evidence stating otherwise.
On 22 March, the Ministry of Health confirmed the second death linked to the virus, a 70-year-old woman from Yumbo whose daughter had returned from Cuba on 2 March and reported to have had contact with two people from the United States, one of which had tested positive for coronavirus. In addition to this, 21 new cases were reported, bringing the total up to 231.
On 26 March, only 21 new positive cases were confirmed, which represented a decrease from previous days when over 90 positive cases were reported. According to the INS, this decrease was due to damage to the machine that prepared the samples for processing and subsequent diagnosis of COVID-19, which affected the speed at which results were being produced.
On 6 April, President Iván Duque announced in his daily broadcast an extension of the nationwide lockdown until 27 April in order to curtail further transmission of the coronavirus. During said broadcast Health Minister Fernando Ruíz revealed that infection numbers were lower than initially expected. While the country was expected to have over 5,700 cases by 4 April according to initial estimates, the actual number by that day was just over 1,400. At the same time it was announced that businesses affected by the lockdown would benefit from up to COP 12 trillion (US$2.9 billion) in credits.
On 9 April, Bogotá mayor Claudia López announced gender-based quarantine measures, known as Pico y género, to reduce circulation of the population. Under this rule, women can go out for essential tasks, like grocery shopping, on even-numbered days, while men can go out on odd-numbered days. The rule explicitly allows for self-designation of gender identity where it mentions the existence of transgender people; nonetheless, the rule has had a harmful impact on the transgender community. Informal workers who rely on daily labor for wages have also been harmed by the quarantine. In other departments and municipalities, transit-restriction measures such as Pico y cédula, which allow people to go out for essential tasks on specific days of the week according to the last digit of their ID (cédula) were implemented.
On 10 April, INPEC reported the first death of a prisoner by COVID-19: a 63-year-old man who had been held in the Villavicencio prison until 1 April and died six days later at the city's local hospital. The following day, a 78-year old inmate at the same prison died as well and another one was confirmed to have tested positive for coronavirus, who would die on 17 April. That same day, 13 inmates and seven guards were reported to be active COVID-19 cases. By 23 April, the outbreak at Villavicencio prison was reported to have extended to 109 cases.
On 20 April, President Iván Duque announced a further extension of the nationwide lockdown until 11 May, but allowed the construction and manufacturing sectors to reopen starting from 27 April, under specific protocols. International and domestic commercial flights would remain suspended until the end of May, as would inter-municipal transport. On the other hand, public transport within cities was required to operate at a maximum of 35% capacity. Individual exercise was also allowed.
On 5 May, President Iván Duque announced a further extension of the nationwide lockdown for two weeks, until 25 May at midnight. He also announced that more economic sectors would be allowed to re-open under strict protocols starting from 11 May: automobile, furniture, and clothing manufacturing industries, wholesale trade and certain retailers such as laundries, bookstores and stationeries. Children aged 6–17 would be allowed to go outside three times a week for 30 minutes, with those aged 14 and under required to be accompanied by an adult who does not belong to a high-risk group (people over 70 years old or with underlying medical conditions). In addition to that, municipalities without confirmed COVID-19 cases would also be able to start re-opening their economic sectors, in coordination with mayors, governors and the national government. Bars, dine-in restaurants, gyms, and clubs would remain closed, and massive events would remain forbidden.
On 8 May, Bogotá mayor Claudia López announced new measures regarding the planned reactivation of the economy. All permitted construction works with safety protocols in place could resume by 11 May, working from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Manufacturing companies with safety protocols in place could request permission to resume operations as early as 18 May, between 10 a.m and 5 a.m. (for this sector, which may have more than one work shift, business hours will depend on the size of the company), while wholesale traders and retailers may resume beginning 25 May, from noon to midnight. As the economic reactivation would make the pico y género measure unworkable, given that more people would need to leave their homes to go to work regardless of gender, this restriction was lifted on 11 May. An "orange alert" was declared for some neighborhoods in Kennedy, the locality with the most COVID-19 cases in the city. Residents of those sectors would be subject to a strict quarantine, only able to go out for essential tasks. Street sales and outside physical activity were prohibited in the area. These zones were to be monitored by health authorities for two weeks.
That same day, the National Health Institute reported 595 new confirmed cases on its daily report, raising the total of confirmed cases to 10,051. Bogotá was the region with the highest number of new cases, with 225. 21 new deaths were reported, raising the total to 228, and 2,424 people had recovered. Moreover, the institution reported that 4,387 tests were processed that day, and over 123,700 tests had been processed since the start of the outbreak in March.
With Mother's Day in Colombia being celebrated on the second Sunday of May (10 May in 2020) and given that the holiday is considered a critical one by authorities due to the high consumption of alcohol, gatherings and brawls, several departments and municipalities decreed curfews and prohibition of the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages (ley seca) within their jurisdictions for the weekend between Friday night and Monday morning in order to prevent further spread of coronavirus as well.
On 14 May the National Government, through a decree issued by the Ministry of Interior, ordered the governor of the Amazonas Department as well as the mayor of Leticia the closure of every opened economic activity in the municipality and the department except for the ones strictly necessary for health, supply and essential services and declared a lockdown for that specific zone of the country until 30 May. This decision was reached due to the fast spread of coronavirus in the Amazonas Department since the confirmation of the first positive case in the department on 17 April, with 924 confirmed cases and 90 out of every 10,000 inhabitants being diagnosed with COVID-19. According to the reports by the INS, it was the highest rate in the country, ahead of Bogotá with 5.5 infected people per 10,000 inhabitants as of that day.
On 17 May, a humanitarian flight arrived in Colombia with 366 Colombian nationals. Due to travel restrictions, they had been stranded in other countries on four continents. Upon returning to Colombia, they were required to isolate for 14 days.
On 19 May, President Iván Duque announced a fourth extension of the national lockdown until 31 May, as well as the extension of the national health emergency until 31 August. Starting from 1 June, the country would enter a new stage in which reactivation of museums, libraries and domestic service activities would be evaluated, schools and universities were confirmed to continue under the modality of virtual education until August, when universities would be allowed to reopen under a model of alternation between classroom and virtual classes. People over 70 would have to remain isolated until 30 June.
On 23 May, the INS reported a total of 20,177 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1,046 new cases on its daily report, being this the first time the country reported over 1,000 infected people in 24 hours since the confirmation of the first case on 6 March.
April's inflation rate dropped to 0.16%, the lowest inflation rate since 2013. Colombia's gross domestic product ("producto interno bruto", or PIB) only grew 1.1% in the first trimester of 2020, in contrast to the 2.9% growth achieved in the first trimester of 2019.
By early May 2020, a quarter of Colombians aged 18–25 and a fifth of Colombians aged 26–40 had lost their jobs, according to a poll by McCann Worldgroup. Many others stated they had their working hours reduced or had to take a second job. A majority of Colombians (8 in 10) had their income reduced compared to the one received before the pandemic.
From 20 March, mass transit systems were running at only 10–15% of their usual occupancy. As the economy reactivated, and government guidelines ordered vehicle occupation to be capped at a 35% maximum, passengers increased but ridership remained low. The operation of Transmetro in Barranquilla was suspended on the morning of 2 May until further notice as passengers were not abiding by social distancing instructions within the system and vehicles were overcrowded. Transmetro resumed operation three days later with adjusted health protocols.
On 11 May, vehicles in Bogotá, Cali, Medellín, Bucaramanga, and Pereira were being used to about one-quarter of their usual occupancy (using pre-quarantine levels in early March as a reference point), while in Barranquilla they operated with less than one-fifth of their usual occupancy, and in Cartagena vehicles had only 6% of their usual occupancy. As a result, in May it was estimated that Colombian mass transit systems would lose COP 1.8 trillion (US$450 million) by the end of 2020.
Restaurants and retail
Considering that the Mother's Day holiday is key for businesses such as restaurants and retail commerce, most of which were closed due to the national lockdown, the Colombian National Federation of Commerce (Fenalco) requested for the holiday to be moved to another date in the second semester of the year after the health emergency was over. In response to that request, Colombian Minister of Trade José Manuel Restrepo stated that the original date would stand, however, an extra holiday in the second semester of the year would be granted as well.
Starting from 18 May, the Financial Superintendence of Colombia issued guidelines on in-person customer service for banks and financial entities, ordering measures such as opening at least 85% of their branches, extending their opening hours to at least six hours a day from Monday to Friday and four hours if open on Saturdays, and establishing priority service hours for people over 60 or with special conditions.
Government assistance was distributed through a program named Ingreso Solidario for which people could apply online. Four payouts were planned. By the time the second payout was announced, 500,000 families had been accepted into the program.
Colombia Está Contigo is a program created by the National Department for Disaster Risk Management (Departamento Nacional de Gestión del Riesgo de Desastres) to deliver humanitarian assistance packages to recipients, specifically including transgender people.
Colombia Cuida a Colombia, which featured an online music festival on 1 May, raised COP 1.9 billion (roughly half a million U.S. dollars) from 42,000 donors.
Netflix donated US$500,000 (COP 1.994 billion) to assist over 1,500 technicians in the film industry who had lost their jobs. The fund is administrated by the Colombian Academy of Film Arts and Sciences (Academia Colombiana de Artes y Ciencias Cinematográficas - Acacc).
From 6 to 9 May, the Federación de Loterías de Colombia (Fedelco) raised funds for 10,000 lottery ticket vendors (loteros) who were unable to work during the national lockdown and the subsequent suspension of lotteries and gambling.
On 20 April 2020, the Colombian Congress began holding virtual sessions. Existing Congressional rules neither explicitly allowed nor forbidded virtual sessions. It was the first time in Colombia's history that Congress had convened online.
By the end of April, following increased testing efforts at the prison in Villavicencio, over 15% of prisoners there were diagnosed positive. On 29 April, the number of positive cases at Villavicencio prison reached 314. In early May, 7 percent of all confirmed cases in Colombia were in the central prison of Villavicencio.
By 15 May, the outbreak at La Picota prison in Bogotá had ended as INPEC confirmed that the five inmates there who had been diagnosed with the illness had all recovered, but there were still active outbreaks at six of the country's 132 prisons. Positive cases had been confirmed at prisons in Florencia, Ibagué, and Guaduas. In the prison in Leticia, in the Amazonas Department, there were 90 cases in two weeks. Ternera prison in Cartagena reported its first case on 14 May.
On the evening of 21 March, about 23 prisoners were killed and 83 injured during a riot at La Modelo prison in Bogotá which erupted amid fears over spreading of the coronavirus through prison walls. Prisoners across the country were protesting against overcrowding in prisons as well as poor health services ever since the outbreak of COVID-19.
On 4 May, a brawl broke out at the municipal prison in San José del Guaviare, where it was discovered that inmates had used alcohol-based sanitizer to get drunk. The sanitizer had been donated to help prisoners keep their living spaces clean during the outbreak.
On 15 April, the government issued a decree (which it had announced three weeks earlier) to allow 5,000 prisoners to return to their homes. The focus was on prisoners who were disabled, ill, over 60 years old, or new mothers (pregnant, nursing, or with children under age 3), and who had already served about half of their original brief sentence. By 4 May, 268 prisoners had been released under the terms of this decree. Moreover, thousands of other prisoners were released by ordinary mechanisms such as expiration of their sentences. By mid-May, requests for release from over five hundred prisoners had been approved, while a thousand requests had been denied.
Current number of cases by department
|Department||Confirmed cases||Confirmed deaths||Recovered||Active cases|
|Valle del Cauca||2,673||135||803||1,735|
|Norte de Santander||121||12||77||32|
Confirmed new cases per day in Colombia
Confirmed deaths per day in Colombia
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