Coronavirus in Colombia: We look at current Coronavirus statistics in Colombia and the measures taken by Colombia to minimize the threat of COVID-19.

Many Medellin Guru readers have asked about the current status of coronavirus in Colombia. So, we look at coronavirus cases in Colombia to other countries in Latin America and look in detail at what measures Colombia is taking.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on March 12, declared the rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak a pandemic.

As of March 27, 2020 at 4 pm, over 160 countries and territories in the world have reported that over 590,000 people have contracted COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, known as SARS-CoV2. And over 26,900 people have died from this virus worldwide and over 132,400 have recovered.

In addition, there are a number of myths out there about coronavirus that are simply not true. So, we also look at four of these myths in this article.

Editors note, on March 19, President Iván Duque announced that starting on March 23 the arrival of international travelers to Colombia will be suspended for a period of 30 days with incoming international flights banned. This ban includes all travelers including Colombians and foreigner residents.

Also, there is a nationwide quarantine in Colombia starting on March 24 for 19 days.

Computer generated image of COVID-19, photo by Felipe Esquivel Reed

Computer generated image of COVID-19, photo by Felipe Esquivel Reed

Coronavirus Cases in Colombia

Colombia Ministerio de Salud (Ministry of Health) reported the number of coronavirus cases in Colombia on March 27 at 1:00 pm  – a total of 539 cases with six deaths.

The first coronavirus case in Colombia was on March 6, 2020 and by March 27 at 1:00 pm, the number of cases had grown to 539, as seen in the following chart. Note that the case count reported on March 27 may not be for a full day with more cases possibly announced on March 28 for March 27.

Count of Coronavirus cases in Colombia by day, source: Instituto Nacional de Salud, 3/27 at 1:00 pm

Count of Coronavirus cases in Colombia by day, source: Instituto Nacional de Salud, 3/27 at 1:00 pm

A reason for the drop in the daily increase in the number of cases on March 26 and March 27 is reportedly due to a technical fault in an a machine essential for making the molecular diagnosis of COVID-19 used by the Instituto Nacional de Salud (INS). So, INS is having to do things manually, which takes more time per diagnosis. INS plans to use its human capacity to respond to and mitigate this situation as soon as possible.

The cases of coronavirus in Colombia are in the following departamentos (departments or states) in Colombia on March 27 at 1:00 pm:

  • Bogotá DC – 223 cases
  • Valle del Cauca – 73 cases
  • Antioquia – 60 cases
  • Bolívar – 26
  • Cundinamarca – 22 cases
  • Risaralda – 19
  • Atlántico – 16 cases
  • Norte de Santander – 15 cases
  • Quíndío – 15 cases
  • Huila – 14 cases
  • Caldas – 12 cases
  • Cauca – 9 cases
  • Tolima – 9 cases
  • Meta – 8 cases
  • Magdelena – 7 cases
  • Santander – 4 cases
  • Boyacá – 2 cases
  • Cesar – 2 cases
  • Casanare – 1 case
  • San Andrés and Providencia – 1 case
  • Nariño – 1 case

On March 27 at 1:00 pm, the cases were in the following cities and towns in Colombia:

  • Bogotá – 223 cases
  • Cali – 50 cases
  • Medellín – 41 cases
  • Cartagena – 26 cases
  • Pereira – 15 cases
  • Cúcuta – 14 cases
  • Armenia – 13 cases
  • Barranquilla – 13 cases
  • Palmira – 13 cases
  • Neiva – 12 cases
  • Popayán – 9 cases
  • Ibagué – 8 cases
  • Santa Marta – 7 cases
  • Manizales – 5 cases
  • Villavicencio – 5 cases
  • Bucaramanga – 4 cases
  • Dosquebradas – 4 cases
  • Bello – 3 cases
  • Cajicá – 3 cases
  • Chía – 3 cases
  • Envigado – 3 cases
  • Itagüí – 3 cases
  • Rionegro – 3 cases
  • Soacha – 3 cases
  • Villavicencio – 3 cases
  • Anapoima – 2 cases
  • Calarcá – 2 cases
  • Chinchiná – 2 cases
  • Cota – 2 cases
  • La Dorada – 2 cases
  • Soledad – 2 cases
  • Tuluá – 2 cases
  • Valledupar – 2 cases
  • Villeta – 2 cases
  • Viterbo – 2 cases

And the following cities and towns in Colombia had one case each: Apartado, Barbosa, Buga, Caldas, Cartago, Darién, El Dovio, El Retiro, Facatativá, Frontino, Funza, Fusagasugá, Guarne, Guatapé, La Unión, Madrid, Meta, Mosquera, Neiva, Pacho, Palermo, Puerto Colombia, Sabaneta, San Andrés Island, San Pedro, Santana, Santander, Sopó, Subachoque, Tolima, Trujillo, Tunja, Valledupar, Villa del Rosario, Villamaria, Yopal and Yumbo.

As of March 26 at 1:00 pm, Bogotá had 223 cases, which was 41 percent of the total 539 cases in Colombia.

In Antioquia where Medellín is located, every time someone with Covid-19 symptoms is detected, an operation is launched to confirm whether or not the person has the virus. The person is isolated and samples are taken.

Samples from Medellín were being sent to Instituto Nacional de Salud (INS) in Bogotá with a 24-hour minimum period for the contagion to be confirmed or ruled out but now tests reportedly are being done in Medellín without sending to Bogotá for a faster confirmation of cases.

In addition, starting on April 1, the Health Ministry in Colombia announced that it plans to increase testing capability to at least 350,000 tests per week. This will enable detecting more cases to ensure those who are infected are isolated so they don’t infect more people.

More Details on the Coronavirus Cases in Colombia

The majority of the coronavirus cases in Colombia reportedly are travelers who had been to countries with coronavirus outbreaks. According to INS on March 27 at 1:00 pm, out of 539 cases in Colombia, 295 (55 percent) were confirmed to be travelers who had been to countries with coronavirus outbreaks. Also, 52 cases were being studied as to the source of transmission.

Also reportedly on March 16, up to 80 percent of the cases in Colombia had been traced back to the El Dorado airport in Bogotá.

The following chart shows the current status of coronavirus cases in Colombia on March 27 at 1 pm.

Current status of coronavirus cases in Colombia,source: Instituto Nacional de Salud, 3/27, 1:00 pm

Current status of coronavirus cases in Colombia,source: Instituto Nacional de Salud, 3/27, 1:00 pm

The vast majority of coronavirus cases in Colombia are isolated at home and treated at home. Only 8.9 percent of cases were hospitalized in Colombia on March 27 at 1 pm according to INS. This is likely due to a majority of cases in Colombia being people under the age of 60.

The following chart shows the age distribution and gender of the coronavirus cases in Colombia on March 27 at 1:00 pm:

Age and gender of Colombia coronavirus cases, source: Instituto Nacional de Salud, 3/27, 1:00 pm

Age and gender of Colombia coronavirus cases, source: Instituto Nacional de Salud, 3/27, 1:00 pm

Coronavirus Cases in Other Countries in Latin America and the World

Some of the countries in Latin America have higher counts of confirmed coronavirus cases than in Colombia on March 27, 2020 at 4 pm according to Worldmeter:

  • Brazil – 3,417 cases
  • Chile – 1,610 cases
  • Ecuador – 1,595 cases
  • Panama – 674 cases
  • Peru – 635 cases
  • Mexico – 585 cases

The 10 countries in the world with the most confirmed coronavirus cases on March 27, 2020 at 4 pm according to Worldmeter are:

  1. United States – 100,392 cases, 1,543 deaths
  2. Italy – 86,497 cases, 9,134 deaths
  3. China – 81,340 cases, 3,292 deaths
  4. Spain – 64,059 cases, 4,934 deaths
  5. Germany –50,871 cases, 342 deaths
  6. France – 32,964 cases, 1,995 deaths
  7. Iran – 32,332 cases, 2,378 deaths
  8. United Kingdom – 14,543 cases, 759 deaths
  9. Switzerland – 12,928 cases, 231 deaths
  10. South Korea – 9,332 cases, 139 deaths

Many foreign tourists that arrived in Colombia in early 2020 have started renewing tourist visas to enable staying in Colombia for up to 180 days instead of returning to their home country where coronavirus case counts are much higher and increasing at alarming rates.

In addition, some of these foreign tourist are pursuing Colombian visas to enable staying in Colombia longer.

What is Colombia Doing About Coronavirus?

Colombia imposed stricter checks on all incoming travelers to minimize the public health threats posed by coronavirus.

All Colombian and foreigner travelers entering Colombia are new required to fill out a form related to where they have been, how they can be tracked and their current state of health.

According to Migracion Colombia, starting on March 12 all travelers who wish to enter Colombian territory must present the declaration of “Preventive Control Against Coronavirus” form to Colombia Migration, which can be filled out on the Colombian Migration website.

This form asks questions about where the traveler has been, how they can be tracked and state of health.

Also, on March 15 at 11:48 am, Colombian President Iván Duque announced that starting on Monday, March 16, 2020, Colombia will ban the entry of non-nationals and non-residents into Colombia. So, no foreigner, except those with residence, will be allowed to enter the country starting on March 16, as part of the expansion of measures to control the expansion of the coronavirus.

In addition, all Colombian citizens and foreign residents arriving in Colombia will have a mandatory quarantine for 14 days.

Quarantine for Travelers to Colombia

On March 19, President Iván Duque announced that starting on March 23 the arrival of international travelers to Colombia will be suspended for a period of 30 days including banning incoming international flights. This new ban includes all travelers including Colombians and foreigner residents.

Starting on March 16, only Colombian nationals and foreign residents of Colombia can travel to Colombia. Tourists from all countries are temporarily banned from Colombia to help minimize the public health threats posed by coronavirus. This ban is until May 30, 2020 but could be extended.

We have confirmed with the help of our visa agency partner that “foreign residents” are considered foreigners with a resident (R) visa or migrant (M) visa or beneficiary visa according to Resolución 0408 of March 15, 2020. Foreigners with a visitor (V) visa or tourists without a visa are NOT permitted to travel to Colombia.

Colombian citizens and foreign residents traveling to Colombia will be required to quarantine themselves for two weeks after arrival and will be monitored.

Migration officials will verify compliance of the self-imposed quarantine with daily check-ins through a mobile app and migration has the authority to impose penalties in cases of non-compliance. If extreme risk visitors are cleared after their two-week isolation, they are free to travel.

Migration is serious about the quarantine and has already expelled at least 60 tourists from several countries who refused to comply with a two-week imposed quarantine. Reportedly hotels and hostels warned authorities about some of these tourists were ignoring their quarantine. The first tourist expelled was a man from Spain who won’t be allowed to return for seven years.

Other Measures Being Taken in Colombia

The following measures were put in place starting on March 12 in Colombia to minimize the public health threats posed by coronavirus. Reportedly these measures will continue until May 30.

All events with more than 50 people must be cancelled in Colombia starting on March 16. This impacts many planned events in Colombia. So, many events including concerts, conventions and other large events are cancelled.

In addition, Colombia has suspended the transit of cruise ships to Colombia. There is reportedly one exception, cruise ships that have Cartagena as its point of departure and arrival. But disembarkation will not be allowed until being absolutely clear.

Pullmantur Monarch is a ship with Cartagena as its point of departure and arrival but the ship will be quarantined before reaching the port with a quarantine of 14 days starting on March 13. All other ships are not permitted to anchor in Colombian maritime territories.

Furthermore, at 5:00 am on March 14 Colombia closed its border with Venezuela And on March 14, Cine Colombia closed all its theaters in Colombia and many museums in Colombia closed. On March 16, there were over 500 places in Medellín closed due to coronavirus concerns.

Also, starting on March 17, Colombia will close all its land, sea and river borders until March 30. The border closure will restrict the entry and exit of Colombia for all nationals and foreigner.

In addition, starting on March 20 until May 31, all adults older than 70 in Colombia (foreigners or Colombian citizens) must stay in their homes except to buy groceries and medicines, use health services and access financial services. The new rule was announced by President Duque on March 18. This is being done as elderly are more at risk from coronavirus.

Quarantines in Colombia Due to Coronavirus

Also, Governor Aníbal Gaviria Correa of Antioquia and the mayor of Medellín Daniel Quintero confirmed on March 19 during a televised address a quarantine in Antioquia including Medellín between 7:00 pm on Friday, March 20 and 11:59 pm on Tuesday, March 24. During this quarantine, the movement of people and vehicles is prohibited, in order to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

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.

Quarantine for all of Colombia from March 24 to April 13

President Iván Duque announced at night on March 20 that Colombia will have a mandatory nationwide quarantine from Tuesday, March 24 at 11:59 pm, until Monday, April 13 at midnight.

Also, President Duque tweeted that “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.” We have a separate article about the quarantine in Colombia.

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

Why Quarantine and Other Measures? – 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 25, 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.

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.

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.

Colombian has taken action faster the most countries in putting in place measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The following table compares how many days from the first case of coronavirus in several countries until putting in place measures like closing schools nationwide or closing incoming air travel.

How many days from first coronavirus case in countries until put in place preventive measures, March 23, 2020

How many days from first coronavirus case in countries until put in place preventive measures, March 23, 2020

What is Coronavirus and How Does it Compare to the Flu?

Coronavirus or Covid-19 is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a new coronavirus that was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China.

The virus is thought to spread mainly between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).

It also may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

Myth 1 – If you have coronavirus, “you will know”

Not really, COVID-19 causes a wide range of symptoms, many of which are common in other respiratory illnesses such as the common cold or flu.

Common symptoms of COVID-19 include a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, similar to other respiratory illnesses. And rarer symptoms include nausea, dizziness, vomiting and a runny nose.

In severe cases of COVID-19, the disease can progress into a serious pneumonia-like illness — but early on, infected people may show no symptoms at all.

The virus causes mild respiratory infections in about 80 percent of those infected, though about half will have pneumonia. Another 15 percent develop severe illness, and 5 percent need critical care.

Myth 2 – Coronavirus is less deadly than the flu

Reportedly the COVID-19 coronavirus has a transmissibility rate estimated from 2.0 to 3.1 people that an infected person typically makes sick. This compares to the flu (influenza) with a transmissibility rate from 1.3 to 1.8 people. And SARS has a transmissibility rate from 2 to 4 people.

Case-fatality ratio is the number of people killed by disease divided by the number of people who catch it. Seasonal flu, technically kills a relatively small proportion of its cases, with a case-fatality ratio of around 0.1 percent.

The reason the flu is a major public health problem is because it infects many people, 35.5 million in the U.S. from 2018 to 2019, which led to 490,000 hospitalizations and 34,200 deaths.

SARS had a case-fatality rate of 10 percent, about 100 times higher than influenza, and the rate for the new coronavirus case-fatality rate is currently reportedly near 3 percent.

Myth 3 – Children and young adults are more likely to die from coronavirus infections

The China CDC reported on February 11 based on data from 72,314 cases of those diagnosed with COVID-19 and found that older adults in China have been hit the hardest by COVID-19:

  • 14.8 percent death rate for those infected with ages 80 and older,
  • 8 percent for ages 70 to 79,
  • 3.6 percent for ages 60 to 69,
  • 1.3 percent for 50 to 59,
  • 0.4 percent for the age group 40 to 49,
  • 0.2 percent for people ages 10 to 39,
  • No deaths in children under 9 reported.

How Can You Protect Yourself?

According to the CDC in the U.S.:

People can help protect themselves from respiratory illness like COVID-19 with everyday preventive actions.

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Put distance between yourself and other people if COVID-19 is spreading in your community.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.

Also, if you are sick to keep from spreading respiratory illness like coronavirus to others you should:

  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with tissues, then throw the tissues in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Wear a face-mask if you are sick and around other people.
Flyers at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport wearing facemasks as the COVID-19 coronavirus spreads, photo by Chad Davis

Flyers at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport wearing facemasks as the COVID-19 coronavirus spreads, photo by Chad Davis

Myth 4 – Face masks can protect you from the virus

Standard face masks cannot really protect you, as they are not designed to block out viral particles and they do not lay flush to the face. A more specialized mask, known as an N95 respirator, can protect against the virus.

According to the CDC:

Face masks are loose-fitting and provide only barrier protection against droplets, including large respiratory particles. Most face masks do not effectively filter small particles from the air and do not prevent leakage around the edge of the mask when the user inhales.

The role of face masks is for patient source control, to prevent contamination of the surrounding area when a person coughs or sneezes.  Patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 should wear a face mask until they are isolated in a hospital or at home.

Colombia has 24 of the Best Hospitals in Latin America

Colombia has 24 of the Best Hospitals in Latin America

Healthcare in Colombia

Colombia has 24 of the top 58 clinics and hospitals in Latin America, according to a study in late 2019 by América Economia. So, 41 percent of the best hospitals in Latin America are found in Colombia. Nine of these best hospitals in Latin America are located in Medellín and nine are in Bogotá.

In 2017, Colombia had 20 of the top 49 clinics and hospitals in Latin America. And in 2018, Colombia had 23 of the top 58 hospitals. So, the count in 2019 has increased to 24 of the top 58 clinics and hospitals in Latin America for 2019.

In addition, the World Health Organization (WHO) ranks Colombia’s healthcare system as #22 out of 191 countries it ranked. And no other countries in Latin America were ranked higher than Colombia. So, according to WHO, Colombia has the best healthcare system in Latin America.

Also, Colombia’s healthcare system is ranked higher than many wealthier countries like the United States (#37), Germany (#25), Canada (#30) and Australia (#32).

In Colombia, it is possible to have access to world-class healthcare at a fraction of the cost compared to the healthcare costs in North America or Europe. Furthermore, the costs for healthcare in Colombia can be significantly lower than the costs found in the U.S.

Due to having the best healthcare system in Latin America, Colombia is probably better positioned than many other countries in Latin America to handle coronavirus.

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 in Colombia: Current Status

The bottom line is that Colombia currently has 539 coronavirus cases as of March 27, 2020 at 1:00 pm. So, the current risk of coronavirus in Colombia appears to be increasing, which is why several cities in Colombia had quarantines starting on March 20 and Colombia is doing a nationwide quarantine in Colombia starting on March 24

Starting on Monday March 16, Colombia banned the entry of all foreign visitors traveling to Colombia from any countryOnly Colombians and foreign residents will be permitted to enter Colombia starting on March 16 but will have a mandatory quarantine for 14 days

In addition, Colombia has put in place many measures to minimize the public health threats posed by coronavirus. Colombia has suspended the transit of cruise ships through Colombia and banned all events larger than 50 people.

Also, many places in Colombia have closed. We looked at over 1,000 places closed in Medellín due to coronavirus. In addition, starting on March 20, all adults older than 70 in Colombia (foreigners or Colombian citizens) must stay on their homes with only a few exceptions.

Colombia closed its border faster than other countries have done to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. It remains to be seen how effective these measures will be in Colombia.

Coronavirus is a fast-moving topic. So, Medellin Guru will update this article in the event of changes.

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Editors note: updated on March 19 at 10 am to add that President Iván Duque, announced that starting on March 23 the arrival of international travelers to Colombia will be suspended for a period of 30 days – this includes all Colombians and foreign residents. Also updated with current coronavirus case counts.

Editors note: updated on March 19 at 11 pm with current coronavirus case counts.

Editors note: updated on March 20 at 11 am with current coronavirus case counts and updated again at 10 pm.

Editors note: updated on March 21 at 11 am with information about nationwide quarantine quarantine in Colombia starting on Tuesday, March 24 and updated with current coronavirus case counts and updated again at 11 pm.

Editors note: updated on March 22 at 10:40 am with current coronavirus case counts.

Editors note: updated on March 22, 2020 at 11:00 pm with current coronavirus case counts and 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 at noon with current coronavirus case counts and added table showing how many days from first case until measures put in place to prevent spread of coronavirus.

Editors note: updated on March 23 at 11:20 pm with current coronavirus case counts.

Editors note: updated on March 24 at 10:15 pm with current coronavirus case counts.

Editors note: updated on March 25 at 4:00 pm with current coronavirus case counts.

Editors note: updated on March 26 with information that the Health Ministry in Colombia plans to increase testing capability to at least 350,000 tests per week to enable detecting and isolating more coronavirus cases and updated again at 5 pm with current coronavirus case counts.

Editors note: updated on March 27 at 4:00 pm with current coronavirus case counts.

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