On Wednesday, as the World Health Organization (WHO) classified the novel coronavirus a pandemic, the number of cases in Colombia stood at nine. By Friday, four new cases were confirmed by the National Institute of Health, all affecting adult women, three in the city of Neiva, departmental capital of Huila, and one in Bogotá. Of the four new cases, three of the women had returned to Colombia in early March after visiting Italy and Spain. The other, a sister of one of the patients.

With the inevitable rise in coronavirus cases in Colombia, President Iván Duque announced a Health Emergency with economic measures to mitigate the impact of the virus on key sectors of the economy, among them, tourism and aviation. The measures include payment in the second quarter of the year to social security, sales tax (IVA) and income tax instead of the obligatory  April deadlines. “This will allow companies to alleviate the pressure on liquidity during the next several months so they can make their contributions,” said President Duque.

Accompanied during the announcement of the national Health Emergency by Minister of Health Fernando Ruíz and Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism Juan Manuel Restrepo, President Duque also enacted tough health measures with the cancelation of all public events involving 500 people or more. With the announcement, concerts, fairs, festivals, church meetings, among others, are all suspended. Adhering to the directives, are museums, including all the Central Bank’s cultural entities, among them: Museo del Oro (Gold Museum), Botero Museum, Old Mint, and Luis Ángel Arango Library.

The President also gave directives to the country’s port authorities ordering the suspension of “transit and disembarkation of cruise ships in Colombia.” In regards to hotels, the President assured that they have been instructed to perform self-isolation with guests. In addition, he said that indigenous reserves can assume preventive isolation with their own rules. The president asserted that “these are timely, necessary measures that allow us all to work hand in hand.”

The Health Emergency is enforced by the country’s criminal code, Law 599 of 2000. Individuals that violate the protection and quarantine rule prison terms between 4 and 8 years.