On Monday, as the World Health Organization (WHO) called on the global community to “be in phase of preparedness” given the potential of coronavirus to become a pandemic, Colombia announced that it was raising the alert level from “low” to “moderate,” even though the country has been spared the first case of COVID-19.

The announcement comes with the surge of infections in Italy, Iran and South Korea. As the WHO’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom defined the spread of coronavirus as “an extraordinary event,” Colombia’s Minister of Health in charge Iván Darío González, reaffirmed that the country is prepared “to face the public health challenge,” but given the migration flow between European countries and Colombia, “the possibility of the arrival of cases is closer – and for this reason – new control measures must be reinforced.”

The Ministry of Health also confirmed expanded ​​surveillance and prevention measures at airports where passengers will be asked by immigration authorities if they have spent that last 14 days in China, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates and Italy. “We have communicated to the Ministry of Transportation and Migración Colombia the objective of extending the protocols in the strictest manner and shortest possible period,” said González. The Ministry will also launch a national campaign to promote personal hygiene and handwashing. “Having clean hands reduces up to 50% contagious infection,” remarked the Minister during a press briefing.

On Tuesday, Colombia is repatriating 14 nationals and 3 foreigners from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. The Boeing 767 carrying the passengers and health professionals is expected to arrive in Bogotá on Thursday. With the rash of new COVID-19 cases impacting the towns and cities of northern Italy, the Colombian Foreign Ministry confirmed that no cases of Colombians infected with the virus have been reported.