Colombian President Iván Duque toughened measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the country, which on Tuesday, stood at 93 cases. In a televised address to the nation, President Duque declared a National Emergency that orders anyone age 70 or older to self-isolate until May 30, yet allows senior citizens to leave their homes for essential errands in supermarkets, banks, and pharmacies. The order goes into effect on Friday, March 20 at 7:00 am.

“I have instructed all the respective entities to facilitate people over the age of 70 in receiving their pensions, subsidies or food basket in the most convenient way,” said President Duque. “I have also instructed the Ministry of Health to provide all health services in their homes,” he added.

Joining nations across the world that have implemented restrictive measures on their citizens, President Duque reminded Colombians that “the pandemic is, without a doubt, humanity’s greatest challenge in recent times. The solidarity that we show today, responsibility with which we act, depends on how we can recover from the tremendous blow the entire world is taking.” The declaration of the State of Emergency “is a consequence of the exceptional conditions facing the country,” he said.

The President stressed that the measures imposed “imply great sacrifices and not easy to take, but the gravity of the circumstances imposes on us the need to act and protect the most vulnerable.”

COVID-19 has been detected in departments of Valle del Cauca, Tolima, Santander, Atlantico, Bolivar, Cundinamarca, Quindío, Norte Santander, Antioquia, Risaralda, Huila and Meta. On Wednesday, the global case count of coronavirus surpassed 200,000 with 8,200 deaths.

President Duque will announce Wednesday an emergency package to help businesses and individuals impacted by the economic hit of coronavirus outbreak.

Bogotá in quarantine simulation 

With Colombia’s capital city Bogotá reporting close to half the coronavirus cases in the country, 40 according to the Ministry of Health, Mayor Claudia López has asked residents to remain indoors from Friday, March 20 to Monday, March 23, as the city enacts a quarantine simulation, coinciding with the long weekend. Even though the self-isolation over four days is not obligatory, Mayor López said the measure must act as a deterrent for Bogotanos to use all public transport, cars, motorcycles, and frequent shopping malls as well as commercial establishments.

“We are not at a level of emergency nor collapse of our health system, but want to see how Bogotá functions if we have to implement the measure , and be able to prepare for it,” said López.

The simulation also aims to “identify those populations that cannot be in their homes.” According to López, TransMilenio has seen a 36% reduction in commuters since the district declared as “yellow alert” less than a week ago with the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 and hopes to further reduce passenger pay-load in the articulated transit system to 50% during the simulation.