On March 20, President Iván Duque ordered a 19-day mandatory preventive quarantine throughout Colombia, which is the most drastic measure, until now, to try to stop the spread of coronavirus. We provide a guide to the nationwide quarantine in Colombia starting on March 24 for 19 days to contain the spread of coronavirus.

This Colombia quarantine will affect the daily life of about 48 million inhabitants of Colombia. 

Over 50 questions have been received from Medellin Guru readers about this nationwide Colombia quarantine. So, we published this article that answers common questions and was updated on March 23 with detailed information.

On March 25, Colombia reached a total of 470 coronavirus cases. The goal of the nationwide quarantine in Colombia is to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Several cities in Colombia held shorter quarantines over the Saint Joseph’s Day holiday weekend and the new nationwide quarantine in Colombia will start after these other quarantines end.

We previously looked in detail at a Medellín quarantine for four days that started in March 20. And we update daily our article about Coronavirus in Colombia with current statistics.

Colombia Quarantine Starts on March 24

Instead of individual cities in Colombia, the new quarantine for all of Colombia starting on March 24 at 11:59 pm differs not only because it covers the entire national territory, but because it is a mandatory measure with legal consequences for those who violate it.

All details of the 19-day Colombia were published on March 23 in a decree covered in the next section. And the following has been confirmed by statements from the President of Colombia and ministers:

  • All international flights to Colombia suspended on March 23 for 30 days – President Iván Duque, source.
  • A mandatory quarantine (isolation) throughout Colombia from Tuesday. March 24 at 11:59 pm until Monday, April 13 at midnight – President Iván Duque, source.
  • All domestic flights in Colombia are suspended during the quarantine – Angela Maria Orozco, Minister of Transport, source.
  • “Only one person per family will be able to go out and do the market” (grocery shop) during the quarantine – Rodolfo Enrique Zea, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, source.
  • “Essential activities, such as access to health services, purchase of food and medicine, access to banking and postal services, provision of essential public services and security services, among others, will be guaranteed.” – President Iván Duque, source.

There is no need to panic and try to stock up food for 19 days for this quarantine. One person per family will be able to go out to grocery shop during this quarantine.

However, some municipalities like Envigado, Sabaneta, La Estrella, Bello and Copacabana in the Aburrá Valley have added a Pico y Cedula system that limits the days you can go grocery shopping based on the last digit of your ID.

Colombia Quarantine Decree Details

The Presidency of Colombia published on March 23, the decree of the mandatory quarantine for life that will begin on Tuesday, March 24 at 11:59 p.m. and until Monday, April 13 at midnight.

The seven-article decree number 457 of 2020, signed by President Iván Duque and the 18 ministers of his cabinet, orders the compulsory preventive isolation or quarantine “of all the inhabitants of the Republic of Colombia” during the established period of time, and as a measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The decree allows the right of movement of people in the following 34 cases or activities:

  1. Assistance and provision of health services.
  2. Acquisition of essential goods – food, beverages, medicines, cleaning products and goods of ordinary consumption in the population.
  3. Displacement for banking, financial and operator services, and notary services.
  4. Assistance and care of children, adolescents and people over 70 years old with special treatments that require assistance from trained personnel.
  5. Due to force majeure or fortuitous event.
  6. The work of the medical missions of the Organizacion Panamericana de la Salud (OPS) and all international health organizations, the provision of public and private professional, administrative, operational, and technical health services.
  7. The chain of production, supply, storage, transport, marketing and distribution of medicines, pharmaceutical products, supplies, cleaning products, disinfection and personal hygiene for homes and hospitals, equipment and devices for health technologies, as well as maintenance and support for guarantee the continued provision of health services. The operation of establishments and commercial premises for the commercialization of medicines, pharmaceuticals, supplies, equipment and devices for health technologies.
  8. Activities related to emergency services, including veterinary emergencies.
  9. Funeral services, burials and cremations.
  10. The chain of production, supply, storage, transportation, marketing and distribution of: inputs to produce basic necessities and the basic necessities including food, beverages, medicines, medical deposits, cleaning, cleaning of ordinary consumption in the population, food and medicines for pets, and other elements and goods necessary to meet the health emergency, as well as the chain of supplies related to the production of these goods.
  11. The chain of sowing, harvesting, production, packing, importing, exporting, transporting, storing, distributing and marketing of seeds, inputs and agricultural products, fish farms, livestock and agrochemicals, fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, agricultural products, fish farms and fish products and animal feed, maintenance of animal health, the operation of primary and secondary food processing centers, the operation of the marketing infrastructure, major and minor irrigation for the supply of population and agricultural water, and technical assistance. Logistics and transportation of the above activities will be guaranteed.
  12. The face-to-face marketing of basic necessities will be carried out in food markets, warehouses, markets, wholesale and retail supermarkets and retail markets in establishments and commercial premises nationwide, and they may market their products through electronic commerce platforms and / or by home delivery
  13. The activities of the public servants and contractors of the State that are strictly necessary to prevent, mitigate and attend to the health emergency due to the coronavirus COVID-19, and to guarantee the functioning of the indispensable services of the State.
  14. The activities of the personnel of diplomatic and consular missions duly accredited to the Colombian State, strictly necessary to prevent, mitigate and deal with the health emergency due to the coronavirus COVID-19
  15. The activities of the military, the national police and state security agencies, as well as the military and defense industry.
  16. The activities of the public and private ports, exclusively for the transport of cargo.
  17. Maritime and river dredging activities
  18. The review and attention of emergencies and road affectations and infrastructure works that cannot be suspended.
  19. Activities necessary for air and airport operations.
  20. The commercialization of the products of the gastronomic establishments and locals through electronic commerce platforms or by home delivery. The restaurants located within hotel facilities may only serve their guests.
  21. The activities of the hotel industry to serve its guests, which are strictly necessary to prevent, mitigate and attend to the health emergency due to the coronavirus COVID-19.
  22. The functioning of the critical infrastructure – computers, computer systems, communication networks, data and information whose destruction or interference may weaken or impact the security of the economy, public health or the combination of them
  23. The operation and operation of call centers, contact centers, technical support centers and data processing centers that provide services in the national territory and electronic commerce platforms.
  24. The operation of the provision of private security and surveillance services, prison and penitentiary services and companies that provide cleaning and cleaning services in public buildings, common areas of buildings and buildings in which activities are carried out.
  25. The activities necessary to guarantee the operation, maintenance, storage and supply of the provision of (i) public services of aqueduct, sewage, electric energy, public lighting, trash (collection, transportation, use and final disposal, including biological or sanitary waste). ); (ii) of the logistics chain of inputs, supplies for production, supply, import, export and supply of hydrocarbons, liquid fuels, biofuels, natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas; (iii) of the logistics chain of inputs, supplies for production, supply, import, export and supply of minerals and (iv) Internet and telephone service.
  26. The provision of banking and financial services, postal payment operators, credit bureaus, transportation of securities and money activities.
  27. The operation of postal, courier, radio, television, press, and media distribution services.
  28. The abstention and distribution of food and essential necessities – food, beverages, medicines, medical devices, cleaning, cleaning and goods for ordinary consumption by the population – by virtue of social programs of the State and private persons.
  29. Interreligious sector activities related to emergency and humanitarian, spiritual and psychological aid programs.
  30. The activities strictly necessary to operate and carry out the essential maintenance of companies, industrial plants or mines, of the public or private sector, which due to the nature of their production process require to maintain their operation continuously
  31. The intervention of civil and construction works, which, due to the state of progress of the work or its characteristics, present risks of technical stability, threat of collapse or require actions to strengthen the structure.
  32. The activities of operators of payment of wages, fees, pensions, public and private economic benefits; periodic social economic benefits (BEPS) and the corresponding systems and subsystems of Social Security and Social Protection.
  33. The strictly necessary displacement of the directing and teaching staff of public and private educational institutions to prevent, mitigate, and attend to health emergencies caused by the coronavirus COVID-19.
  34. The construction of health infrastructure strictly necessary to prevent, mitigate, and attend to health emergencies caused by the coronavirus COVID-19.

The people who carry out the above 34 activities must be accredited and identified in the exercise of their functions.

Most important for foreigners is paragraph 2 of the decree that states: the circulation of a single person per family will be allowed to carry out the activities described in numbers 2 and 3 above.

Also, paragraph 4 states: in order to protect the integrity of people, pets and companion animals and in attention to the health of plants measures, only one person per family member may remove pets or companion animals.

So, the bottom line is one designated person per family can go shopping to grocery stores and pharmacies and also do banking plus walk dogs.

In addition, many grocery stores and most pharmacies offer domocilio (delivery) services. And some restaurants are still open that offer delivery services.

Also, you are not permitted to travel by bus to other cities or towns during this national quarantine unless you qualify with one of above exceptions. In addition, Medellín closed its two bus terminals on March 24.

Penalties for Violating the Colombia Quarantine

Anyone who violates the measures adopted and the instructions given in the Decree of Mandatory Preventive Isolation, will reportedly be subject to a penal sanction provided for in article 368 of the Colombia Penal Code.

Article 368 indicates that whoever violates a sanitary measure adopted by the competent authority to prevent the introduction or spread of an epidemic, will be imprisoned for four to eight years.

In addition, a violator will have to pay the fines ordered by Decree 780 of 2016, issued by the Ministry of Health and Social Protection.

Be careful of violating this quarantine. The police in the Aburrá Valley are out in force and have reportedly caught over 2,300 people who have violated the quarantines in the metropolitan area, as of March 25.

Autopista highway with no cars at Mayorca mall in Sabaneta south of Medellín on March 21 during the quarantine in Medellín and Antioquia

Autopista highway with no cars at Mayorca mall in Sabaneta south of Medellín on March 21 during the quarantine in Medellín and Antioquia

Quarantines in Major Cities in Colombia Before Nationwide Quarantine

Major cities in Colombia are undergoing quarantines over the Saint Joseph’s Day (Día de San José) holiday weekend in Colombia. So, up to about a third of Colombia is locked down:

  • Bogotá – Friday, March 20 at midnight until the end of Tuesday, March 24 at 11:59 pm
  • Medellín and Antioquia – Friday, March 20 at 7 pm until Tuesday, March 24 at 11:59 am (was originally 3 am but a new order extended this to March 24 at 11:59 pm)
  • Cali – Friday, March 20 at 10 pm until Tuesday, March 24 at 11:59 am (was originally 4 am but a new order extended this to March 24 at 11:59 pm)
  • Cartagena – nightly curfews from 6 pm to 4 am and complete lockdowns on Saturday and Sunday (March 21 and 22) but a new order extended this to March 24 at 11:59 pm)
  • The provinces of Boyaca and Meta are shutting down in coordination with Bogotá authorities. And the Santander provide, including its capital Bucaramanga, will also shut down late on Friday.

Barranquilla is the only major city in Colombia without a planned quarantine over the Saint Joseph’s Day holiday.

Quarantines in Other Countries

Colombia joins the list of countries that have decreed national quarantines to deal with coronavirus, including Argentina, France, Italy and Spain.

For example, in Argentina, President Alberto Fernández issued a decree prohibiting all citizens from leaving their homes, with the exception of going out to buy food or medicine, until March 31. The mandatory quarantine order in Argentina went into effect at midnight on March 20.

And in Spain on March 15, the government limited to the movement of citizens, in an unprecedented measure for this country. In Spain, citizens can only leave the house for essential travel to supermarkets and pharmacies – and reportedly must somehow prove that’s where they’re going.

In total, more than 900 million people in nearly 35 countries are currently affected by restrictions in movement due to coronavirus.

Flatten the coronavirus case curve, source CDC

Flatten the coronavirus case curve, source CDC

Why Quarantine? – Flatten the Curve

With a nationwide quarantine, Colombia is trying to avoid a rapid spike of coronavirus cases that could overwhelm the health care system in Colombia by “flattening the curve,” or spreading out the number of coronavirus cases over a longer period.

Mitigation efforts like a quarantine, cancelling international flights, closing places where people congregate and limiting the size of events are mitigation efforts that can reduce the number of daily cases and reduce pressure on the healthcare system in Colombia.

Colombia exceeded 100 cases of coronavirus on March 18 and the next 10 days could determine the trajectory of cases of coronavirus in Colombia. On March 24, Colombia hit 378 cases, six days after exceeding 100 cases, which is an average growth in the number of cases over six days of 24.6 percent per day.

Count of Coronavirus cases in Colombia by day, source: Colombia Ministerio de Salud, 3/24 at 5 pm

Count of Coronavirus cases in Colombia by day, source: Colombia Ministerio de Salud, 3/24 at 5 pm

If this same 24.6 percent growth rate per day in cases continues, Colombia will hit over 1,000 coronavirus cases by March 29 and over 2,000 cases by April 1.

Colombia’s goal with the quarantine is to reduce the increase in daily cases and flatten the curve.

Will Colombia follow in a trajectory similar to Hong Kong or Singapore? Or will the trajectory of cases in Colombia be similar to other Western countries like the U.S. or Italy where case counts have increased at an alarming rate of about 33 percent per day, see the following chart.

Trajectory of Coronvirus cases after 100 cases in Western countries, source FT, March 25

Trajectory of Coronvirus cases after 100 cases in Western countries, source FT, March 25

Common Reader Questions About the Colombia Quarantine

We have been asked over 50 questions by readers about the Colombia quarantine and the following are the six most commonly asked questions.

1. Can I extend my tourist visa to stay in Colombia longer?

Yes, you are permitted to stay up to 180 days in Colombia as a tourist. Tourist visas/stamps are typically for 90 days and can be extended for another 90 days without leaving Colombia.

In the past, Migracion Colombia rejected renewals if more than about 10 days before your tourist visa expires. But Migracion Colombia is now swamped with tourist visa extensions. So, we recommend submitting two weeks or more in advance before your tourist visa expires.

We have a popular guide to extending a tourist visa. Also, Medellin Guru has partnered with a visa agency that offers a service to help extend a tourist visa.

With this tourist visa extension service, the agency will apply for you and also pay for you. So, you won’t run into the typical problems encountered when renewing a tourist visa. Just click on the following button to use this service.

Use the Medellin Guru Tourist Visa Extension Service

2. Can I fly domestically in Colombia?

During the 19-day quarantine in Colombia, all domestic flights are suspended in Colombia. After the quarantine, domestic flight options will be limited.

For example, Avianca is planning to operate only 10 planes for all its domestic flights in Colombia. This reportedly will be a reduction of over 75 percent of domestic flights for Avianca.

3. Are international flights still flying, can I leave?

Starting on March 23, the arrival of international travelers to Colombia will be suspended for a period of 30 days. Also, the land and sea borders of Colombia are closed. So, you can’t leave by land or sea.

Several airlines have already reportedly suspended international flights from Colombia including:

  • American Airlines – service suspended from March 18 to May 6
  • Avianca – suspended all international flights from March 23 to April 30
  • Iberia – suspended service starting on March 15
  • JetBlue – service suspended starting on March 19

Some airlines such as Copa and Spirit still have some international flights leaving Colombia. But this will be limited and more international flights will likely be suspended or cancelled, as there will be no passengers on flights to Colombia starting on March 23.

4. I have been in Colombia for about 130 days and want to stay over 180, can I get a Colombian visa to stay longer than a tourist?

Yes, Colombia has many visa options. We have a comprehensive guide to Colombia visas and a total of 20 articles about Colombian visa and passports.

Medellin Guru partnered with a visa agency that can help you obtain a visa. Over the past year, this partner visa service helped over 190 clients obtain Colombian visas. And visas are still being processed in Colombia.

5. What happens if I can’t leave but exceed the time on my tourist visa?

If you exceed 180 days as a tourist in Colombia during a calendar year or stay more than 180 days consecutively as a tourist, you are liable for paying a fine before leaving the country, which is covered in our article about tourist visas.

However, it is possible that Colombia Migracion may become more lenient if international flights are not available.

6. Will I be able to shop for groceries during the quarantine?

Yes, one person per family can go shopping for groceries during the quarantine. There is no need to and try to stock up food for 19 days for this quarantine.

However, some municipalities like Envigado, Sabaneta, La Estrella, Bello and Copacabana in the Aburrá Valley have added a Pico y Cedula system that limits the days you can go grocery shopping based on the last digit of your ID.

Medellin Guru’s Coronavirus Series

Medellin Guru has a series of articles about the coronavirus pandemic and the impacts in Colombia: Also, these articles are being kept up-to-date, as this is a fast-moving topic:

The Bottom Line: Colombia Quarantine – Nationwide Quarantine Starts on March 24

Colombia is serious about putting in place proactive measures to minimize the public health threats posed by coronavirus in Colombia.

Colombia joins several other countries that have implemented lockdowns including Argentina, France, Italy and Spain. The U.S. hasn’t implemented a nationwide lockdown yet, but upwards of 80 million people in the U.S. are currently under lockdowns implemented in some states such as California.

The bottom line is the nationwide quarantine in Colombia will definitely slow down the spreading of coronavirus that could infect thousands in a matter of weeks.

Bookmark our Colombia coronavirus status page that is normally updated once or twice daily to see if Colombia is successful in reducing the increase in daily cases and flattens the curve of coronavirus cases.

Try to stay home as much as possible during this Colombia quarantine and if you go out wash your hands often. Stay safe!

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Editors note: updated on March 22, 2020 with information that the Medellín and Antioquia quarantine is now until March 24 at 11:59 pm and the quarantines in Bogotá, Cali and Cartagena are also until March 24 at 11:59 pm.

Editors note: updated on March 23, 2020 with details of the Colombia national quarantine decree including permitted activities during the quarantine and add the penalties for violating the quarantine.

Editors note: updated on March 24, 2020 with information that the Medellín bus terminals are closed.

Editors note: updated on March 25, 2020 to add information about the new Pica y Cedula system that limits days you can go grocery shopping in some municipalities during the quarantine.

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