After 150 days of strict, flexible and rotating lockdowns in the Colombian capital, since the first case was detected on March 6 and which has resulted in 136,700 cases, Bogotá Mayor Claudia López announced that once the last group of localities (Suba, Engativá and Barrios Unidos) emerge from quarantine on August 14, the district will present new measures to contain the spread of the virus among the city’s 9 million residents. Even though three localities (Usaquén, La Candelaria, Teusaquillo) were exempt from the rotation scheme, as of Thursday, August 14 to 28 they complete the cycle of strict lockdowns that Mayor López has claimed are no longer viable for Bogotá – even though infections will peak over the course of the next three weeks.
In various statements, Mayor López did not rule out the reopening of El Dorado airport on September 1, date set by the government to reactivate more economic sectors with the lifting of the obligatory preventive isolation. “This week, we are going to evaluate how quarantine ends,” remarked López, adding that El Dorado will not reopen in August. “The idea is to design a single model, based on epidemiological and economic factors to determine measures from September to December,” said López.
Appearing to have found a balance between public safety and return to productivity, López has benchmarked September as the month in which “we will build normality,” yet also reminding residents that a post-quarantine normal will not resemble pre-pandemic normal. “A person who does not use a face mask puts the city’s entire economy at risk,” remarked López, highlighting also that until August 31, short-term restrictions will continue, among them, mobility and the identity card-based Pico y cédula.
Among other announcements is a pilot reopening of schools at the end of September, which combines virtual and classroom education based on days of the week. “This model has been proposed by the Ministry of Education, and we believe it is a correct one, in which parents decide if children attend or not a facility.” According to López, some 200,000 youngsters in Bogotá do not have access to computers or the internet. “Students that do not have the necessary tools for online learning can attend school in the evening, thereby avoiding congestion for the city,” she said.
As governments around the world look for a way to start a new school year in safety, President Iván Duque stated that keeping youngsters locked down until a vaccine is available is also unrealistic and that students require “interaction in educational environments for mental, physical and emotional well-being.”
After the initial months of the strict lockdown that began on March 20 and which erupted in a political feud between Mayor López and President Duque, the tension has subsided to the extent that both the district administration and national government appear to be synchronized in coronavirus management and timelines for economic recovery, despite continued closure of key sectors including tourism.
While hotels are gearing up to implement strict biosecurity protocols in order to eventually welcome guests, even if flights resume after September 1, El Dorado’s facilities may only be authorized to operate under 35% capacity, leading to a host of route cancellations.
The first domestic commercial flight is expected to connect Bogotá with the coastal port city of Cartagena.
Another key issue that has yet to be resolved once flights begin to connect Colombia with international destinations is the mandatory 14-day quarantine for passengers, especially if this applies to short-stay business travelers. And almost five months since the nation’s carriers were grounded with the declaration of the Health Emergency, Avianca announced on Monday that the carrier has received biosecurity certifications for secure check-in and flight operations. The country’s flagship has trimmed itineraries, downsized its fleet and with a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in a U.S court, confirmed that it is ready to return to the skies. During the pandemic, Avianca has continued to operate cargo and humanitarian flights.
On Monday, coronavirus cases in Colombia reached 397,623 including 10,142 additional infections and 312 deaths. The death toll stands at 13,154. Bogotá also witnessed a daily increase of 3,376 cases of the national total. From 397,623 cases, the Ministry of Health has confirmed 221,485 recovered patients, putting active cases at 162,115.