President Iván Duque during his evening coronavirus update to the nation on Tuesday announced new restrictions for the Easter holidays. The heightened measures go into effect from March 26 to 29 and March 31 to April 5. March 30 has been exempted as it falls in the middle of the two-week recess.
The nationwide measures are being introduced to contain a spike in new infections after the experience of Christmas and New Years when the country witnessed a surge in the second wave of coronavirus. A third wave sweeping across Europe, and which has led governments to reimpose or extend existing lockdowns, as well as the spread of highly infectious variants, are the main reason why Colombia wants to restrict movement during one of the busiest travel seasons of the year.
The tightening or easing of restrictions will depend on ICU occupation and extends to all municipalities including the capital Bogotá. For towns and cities where ICUs are above 70%, night curfews will be enforced from 10 pm to 5 am, as well as the identity card measure Pico y cédula. For towns and cities where ICUs are 50% or higher, the night curfews extend from 12 pm to 5 am. Bogotá’s ICU occupation as of Tuesday is 61%.
The national government’s decision also gives local administrations the option of introducing additional measures depending if the curve of infection either flattens or continues to increase. After a month in which the country saw a sharp deceleration in new cases since mid-March, this trend has reversed as per-day cases now average close to 5,000 compared to 2,400.
On Tuesday, Colombia registered an additional 126 deaths and 4,946 cases. The number of active cases has also increased above 37,000. The cities where ICU occupation is near – or above – 70% are Barranquilla, Cali, Monteria and Medellín.
While there still isn’t sufficient data from health authorities as to how the third-wave will compare to the second (December – January) and first (April – August), or when it may peak, the national government took the decision to reintroduce restrictions despite having promoted domestic travel with its GranFinDe campaign and ahead of April’s largest tourism and travel fair ANATO. With millions planning on visiting family and heading to beach destinations along the Caribbean coast, the restrictions may force many to rethink their holiday plans or cancel reservations given also that five cities have imposed a ban on alcohol sales.
Ley Seca will be enforced in Medellín, Barranquilla, Bucaramanga, Montería and Santa Marta, including 125 towns across the department of Antioquia. On March 16, Santa Marta decreed night curfews from 8 pm to 5 am. Mayor Virna Johnson also announced she is waiting for the national government’s authorization to close all beaches including those inside the National Park PNN Tayrona. ICU occupation in the departmental capital of Magdalena is at 93%.
The partial shut-down of Easter comes as the country continues its mass vaccination campaign having administered more than 1.3 million doses of both the Pfizer and Sinovac vaccines since February 19. The government’s 5 million per month target of inoculations starts April as more shipments are scheduled to arrive, yet if the current rate of vaccination continues, the country will not reach herd immunity in 2021 nor in 2022.