Coronavirus cases increase in Medellín and a red alert has been issued for ICU capacity in Antioquia. We look at what measures are likely to be taken.

On Thursday, October 22, a red alert was issued for Antioquia due to ICU occupancy exceeding 80 percent. The governor of Antioquia, Aníbal Gaviria, indicated he will coordinate with mayors about which measures will be implemented, which are covered below.

EDITOR NOTE: UPATE there are now curfews for minors (under 18) and adults and dry laws over the Halloween weekend in Medellín and the Aburrá Valley and 125 municipalities in Antioquia detailed in the next section that start on Friday, October 30, which are preventative measure for the spread of coronavirus.

The following chart shows a running 7-day average of new coronavirus cases in Medellín daily, so you can see the trend of new daily cases for more than the past three months.

Rolling 7-Day Average of Daily Coronavirus Cases in Medellín, data source: Instituto Nacional de Salud, Oct. 24

Rolling 7-Day Average of Daily Coronavirus Cases in Medellín, data source: Instituto Nacional de Salud, Oct. 24

Curfews and Dry Law Measures in Medellín and the Aburrá Valley and the Rest of Antioquia

On Tuesday, October 27, it was announced by the national government that there will be curfews for those under 18-years-old (minors) and adults for five days over the Halloween weekend in Medellín, the Aburrá Valley and Antioquia. But it was later announced on October 28 date changes to not include Thursday.

Curfew for Minors (under 18-years old)

The curfew in Medellín and the Aburrá Valley and the entire Antioquia department for minors is from Friday, October 30 at 6 pm, until Monday, November 2 at 6 pm. So, no minors can be on the streets for these days over the Halloween weekend.

Curfew for Adults (18-years old or older)

Also, there is curfew for adults in Medellín and the Aburrá Valley and the entire Antioquia department from Friday, October 30, until Monday, November 1, from 10 pm each day until 6 am the following day:

  • From 10 pm on Friday, October 30, to 6 am on October 31
  • From 10 pm on Saturday, October 31, to 6 am on November 1
  • From 10 pm on Sunday, November 1, to 6 am on November 2

Dry Law over Halloween Weekend

In addition, there is a dry law (ley seca) over the Halloween weekend in Medellín, the Aburrá Valley and Antioquia from October 30 at 6 pm until November 2 at 11:59 pm.

Red Alert for ICU Occupancy in Antioquia and Medellín

Antioquia declared a red alert for the second time this year on October 22 due to a recent increase in the occupancy of ICU beds due to a recent increase in cases of coronavirus.

The first time a red alert for ICU occupancy was issued was on July 30, when infections were on the rise. As seen in the above chart, Medellín peaked with coronavirus cases in August and peaked again in mid-October but started to drop in late October.

ICU occupancy in Antioquia on Wednesday, October 27, was 84.42 percent, which was up from 81.27 percent on October 23 and down from 83.49 percent on October 22 when the red alert was declared according to El Colombiano.

In July, the health system was less prepared with much fewer ICU beds than today with only 742 ICU beds in July.

Now there are more than twice as many ICU beds in Antioquia than when the pandemic began. Antioquia only had 481 ICU beds in May and Antioquia reportedly had 1,185 ICU beds on October 22. And by October 26 Antioquia added 22 more ICU beds, making the total 1,207.

What is Being Done About ICU Occupancy in Antioquia?

Antioquia is taking several actions to reduce ICU occupancy as follows:

  • Non-critical surgeries or procedures that may cause the patient to reach an ICU bed are now postponed in Antioquia.
  • Antioquia is starting to send patients to other departments according to El Colombiano.
  • Antioquia is adding ICU beds and the national government is sending 101 ventilators to Antioquia according to Minuto30. And according to El Colombiano, Antioquia plans to increase its count of ICU beds by adding 160 ICU beds in the next two weeks and add 30 to 40 additional ICUs to reach a goal of 1,400 ICU beds.
What preventative measures could Antioquia and Medellín use?

What preventative measures could Antioquia and Medellín use?

What Preventative Measures Could Antioquia and Medellín Use?

If ICU occupancy continues to increase due to coronavirus cases increase, it is very likely that Antioquia and Medellín will take preventative measures. We look at seven preventative measures used in the past and the likelihood of whether they will be used again.

  1. Curfews
  2. Dry law on weekends
  3. 4/3 – 4 days working and 3 days quarantine weekly
  4. Lockdowns of specific neighborhoods
  5. National quarantine
  6. Pico y cedula
  7. Closing airports

1. Curfews – Very Likely

Bello already announced a curfew for those under-18-years-old on Halloween. Curfews have been used in Medellín during the coronavirus pandemic. For example, there were curfews on holiday weekends in Medellín earlier this year to restrict people from going out.

We believe this is the most likely measure to be taken, particularly on days with big concentrations of people such as on Halloween and other holidays.

There is now a curfew for minors and adults over the Halloween weekend starting on Thursday, detailed above.

2. Dry Law on Weekends – Very Likely

The first weekend dry law started on Friday, July 3 at 6:00 pm and ran until Sunday, July 5 at 11:59 pm, preventing the sale of alcohol.

Medellín police had to intervene in thousands of parties during the quarantine. The dry law was intended to prevent infections caused by bad behavior and lack of self-care, particularly from those inebriated.

Over the Halloween weekend, there is a dry law (ley seca) from October 30 at 6 pm until November 2 at midning in Medellín, the Aburrá Valley and all of Antioquia.

3. 4/3 Weeks – Four Days Working and Three Days with Quarantine – Possible

Throughout the Aburrá Valley, a first long weekend of four days with a strict quarantine was from Friday, July 17 at the 00:00 hour (midnight on Thursday) until the holiday on Monday, July 20, at midnight. This initial strict quarantine was for four days due to adding the holiday.

This 4/3 scheme was previously used for five weeks with quarantines on the following days and other days were working days:

  1. July 17 to July 20 (4 days)
  2. July 24 to July 26 (3 days)
  3. July 31 to August 2 (3 days)
  4. August 7 to August 9 (3 days)
  5. August 15 to August 17 (3 days)

This measure was previously put in place when ICU occupancy in Medellín increased to over 85 percent in July. So, this will likely only be used if ICU occupancy continues to increase.

4. National Quarantine – Unlikely

We believe a national quarantine for Colombia is unlikely to return. The economic harm is too great and the rate of coronavirus infection now varies greatly between cities and towns in Colombia.

Colombia had a national quarantine from March 24 to September 1, a total of 160 days, which was one of the longest national quarantines in the world.

A national quarantine no longer makes sense for Colombia. Preventative measures for coronavirus will likely be done by city if needed. We previously looked at this in an article about will the quarantine return to Colombia.

We look at coronavirus statistics in Colombia daily. In the past seven days, only six cities in Colombia (red in last colomn) were responsible for a majority of the increase in coronavirus cases in Colombia experienced in the past five days.

Coronavirus counts by city in Colombia on October 24 source Instituto Nacional de Salud (INS) Oct. 24

Coronavirus counts by city in Colombia on October 24 source Instituto Nacional de Salud (INS) Oct. 24

Also, as seen in the last column in the above table, 16 of the top cities in Colombia with the most coronavirus cases actually experienced a decrease in cases in the past seven days compared to the previous seven days. This demonstrates that cases are not increasing everywhere in Colombia and are decreasing in several large cities.

5. Lock Down of Specific Neighborhoods – Possible

On July 11, Medellín Mayor Quintero announced that the La Candelaria (El Centro) comuna in Medellín would be locked down for two weeks with a strict quarantine starting on July 13 for two weeks.

This could be used again in neighborhoods or barrios with a high incidence of coronavirus cases. This was also used in Bogotá with rotating quarantines of neighborhoods most impacted by coronavirus.

The last Pico y Cedula in Medellín and the Aburrá Valley Starting August 18 until August 30

The last Pico y Cedula in Medellín and the Aburrá Valley Starting August 18 until August 30

6. Pico y Cedula – Unlikely

Pico y Cedula in Medellín started in May and ended on August 30.

Pico y Cedula restricted the days you could go out shopping and for banking during the quarantine based on the last digit of your ID.

When the quarantine in Colombia ended on September 1, so did Pico y Cedula.  Pico y Cedula was very unpopular and its effectiveness is questionable.

Line to enter the La Vaquita grocery store in Sabaneta during Pico y Cedula

Line to enter the La Vaquita grocery store in Sabaneta during Pico y Cedula

With Pico y Cedula there were lines in many places like grocery stores making social distancing difficult. Now that Pico y Cedula has ended you see lines much less frequently. We believe that resuming Pico y Cedula is possible but unlikely.

International flights returned to Colombia starting in September

International flights returned to Colombia starting in September

7. Closing Airports – Very Unlikely

Colombia has been reopening airports permitting both domestic and international flights to resume.

Colombia started to reactivate tourism in Colombia on September 1. Tourism is important to Colombia’s economy and we believe after reopening the airports, it will be very difficult to make the decision to close them again.

In 2019, 4.5 million non-residents visited Colombia. The tourist industry employs about 1.4 million in Colombia and contributes about 3.8 percent to GDP.

In addition, aviation in Colombia is a sector of great importance. Prior to the COVID-19 crisis it generated more than 600,000 jobs and contributed US$7.5 billion to the country’s GDP, which is about 2.7 percent of Colombia’s GDP.

Also, Colombia requires COVID-19 PCR tests for arriving international passengers. So, international flights are not really considered a major source of infections.

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: Coronavirus Cases Increase in Medellín: What Happens Next?

Coronavirus cases have been increasing in Medellín and Antioquia in October resulting in increased ICU occupancy. However, Antioquia is taking actions to add ICU beds and reduce ICU occupancy.

The bottom line is we believe that ICU occupancy is the key metric to watch to determine if Medellín and Antioquia takes COVID-19 preventive measures. We update our popular article about coronavirus hospitalization in Colombia weekly with updates on ICU utilization.

We expect to see announcements by Medellín and other municipalities next week regarding any preventative measures they decide to put in place. When we published this article on October 25, we thought curfews are the most likely initial preventative measure to be taken but other measures are possible. And we were correct. We looked at seven possible preventative measures in this article and the likelihood they will be used.

We plan to update this article when any additional preventative measures are announced.

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Editors note: updated on October 26, 2020 with information that Antioquia plans to add about 200 ICU beds to increase its count to 1,400 ICUs.

Editors note: updated on October 26, 2020 again with information that the government will have a curfew for minors (under age-18) and a dry law and restaurants, bars, nightclubs and casinos will need to close at 10 pm over the Halloween weekend.

Editors note: updated again on October 26, 2020 with information that 115 other municipalities in Antioquia will have curfews and dry laws over the Halloween weekend.

Editors note: updated on October 27, 2020 with information that the curfew in Medellín and the Aburrá Valley and all of Antioquia over Halloween now starts on Thursday October 29 and includes a curfew for adults starting at 10 pm nightly.

Editors note: updated yet again on October 28, 2020 with information that the curfew in Medellín and the Aburrá Valley and 125 municipalities in Antioquia over Halloween now starts on Friday, October 30 and includes a curfew for adults starting at 10 pm nightly.

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