With the announcement by President Iván Duque that as of September 1, Colombia will open its international airspace to commercial airlines, and date still to be set for inter-municipal bus transport to resume – on Wednesday – the country’s Minister of Health Fernando Ruíz, highlighted the importance of departments that share borders with other nations to enforce strict biosecurity protocols in order to mitigate coronavirus infection to at-risk populations.

During a meeting with lawmakers in the Senate, Ruíz stressed that with the absence of accurate information from the Venezuelan government regarding the spread of COVID-19, the overland crossings at Villa del Rosario in Norte de Santander as well as in Arauca are prone to outbreaks given the large numbers of citizens who share a common border. The Minister also expressed concern that ICU units are not being properly assigned to patients with COVID-19 and beds are being limited to those who have private insurance.

“We are committed to supplying up to 70% of the ventilators required for territorial entities,” said Ruíz at a moment in the pandemic when departmental health workers have been overwhelmed to capacity with coronavirus cases. Among the departments most at risk given its vast expanse of an open border with Venezuela is La Guajira, and where 30 cases have been reported among its majority Wayúu indigenous population.

The department has also confirmed 5 deaths from the respiratory disease. “We are doing strict monitoring in the municipality of Macao, which isn’t critical but one of special vigilance,” said Ruiz.  The minister also stressed that since the first case that was reported in Putumayo, he has been in dialogue with governor Buanerges Florencio to assess border risks. Tumaco on the country’s Pacific coast and closest port city to Ecuador has 821 cases of COVID-19 and precarious medical infrastructure to attend to the needs of impoverished Afro-Colombian residents.

The National Institute of Health has identified 266 clusters of COVID-19 in all 32 departments.

Having registered 1,045 deaths since the outbreak of coronavirus on March 6, Colombia’s total cases have reached 33,354 with 12,288 recovered. Bogotá saw an increase of 507 new cases compared to the previous day’s 373. To confirm the 1,521 additional cases nationwide, the INS processed 12,219 PCR tests. The capital continues to be the focus of the highest number of COVID-19 cases with 11,250 as of Wednesday – despite an extended quarantine until June 15 and one million residents of Kennedy under “strict lockdown.” District health brigades swept through the locality on Wednesday to ratchet-up testing in the community.