Colombia started to lift the quarantine in Colombia on April 27 for some sectors of the economy including manufacturing and construction – what does this mean?

In this article, we look at how Colombia started to lift the quarantine, what sectors are permitted to resume work and we also look what Colombia plans to do for municipalities and regions in Colombia that are COVID-19 free.

Several Medellin Guru readers have asked about what sectors are permitted to work and how this impacts things in Medellín.

On April 17, we published an article “Coronavirus: When Will the Quarantine Be lifted”. When this article was first published, we expected to see some partial lifting on April 27 with some sectors of the economy slowly opened up.

And we were correct, as when the national quarantine was extended to May 11, on April 27 several sectors of the economy including manufacturing and construction were permitted to return to work. This means a total of up to 6 million Colombians are permitted to return to work.

EDITORS NOTE: on May 19, 2020, President Duque confirmed that Colombia is extending the national quarantine for another week until May 31.

The mandatory quarantine in Colombia that started on March 24 has been extended until May 31 and the health emergency in Colombia has been extended until August 31.

The Colombian borders will continue to be closed and there will be no inter-municipal land transport permitted. Also, there will be no domestic flights during this period from June 1 to June 30. But the government is working on protocols for resuming flights in later phases. Also, according to the Minister of transport, international flights will be restricted until August 31.

A new phase will begin from June 1 to 30 with the reactivation of museums, libraries and some other businesses. Also, starting in June, starts an “intelligent lockdown” that would allow the relaxation of restriction of movement measures based on regional conditions. These regional relaxation measures will be expanded “gradually” to recover productive life.

In addition, those over 70 will remain in isolation until June 30. But guidelines will be released so that between June 1 to 30 those over 70 are allowed to have some time outside, with precautions and limitations.

Lift the Quarantine: Several Sectors Return to Work in Colombia

During the nationwide quarantine from March 24 to April 26, many sectors of the economy continued to work including banking, food production and distribution, healthcare, pharmacies, supermarkets, some transportation as well as some restaurants and other businesses with delivery services.

Starting on Monday, April 27, the quarantine was lifted for several additional sectors, which enable well over 6 million people in Colombia to over time start to return to work. The sectors that return to work include:

A new apartment project in Sabaneta

A new apartment project in Sabaneta

1. Construction and Infrastructure

In February 2020, the construction industry in Colombia had added 209,000 jobs compared to February 2019 due to an increase in housing construction.

It is expected that up to 1.5 million workers will return in this sector to work on many construction projects that were halted during the quarantine, reportedly including over 1,900 housing projects in Colombia.

This is a very important sector of the economy that contributed about 15 trillion pesos ($3.8 billion USD) to Colombia’s GDP in 2019.

2. Manufacturing

Manufacturing activities, along with oil production, are very significant for the national economy in Colombia.

Up to 2.4 million people are part of the workers in this sector that resumes activities.  But not all workers in this sector will return to work initially.

In addition, reactivating the manufacturing sector is considered important, as manufacturing is needed to meet the demands of the health sector.

3. Textiles, Clothing and Leather

There are many small companies in this sector in Colombia. The textile portion of this sector employees 1.6 million people. A challenge with this sector will be reactivating demand.

Companies that use leather as a raw material for the manufacture of shoes, bags and other accessories also will be able to reactivate their work.

In 2019, this sector contributed about 3.8 trillion pesos ($0.96 billion USD) pesos to Colombia’s GDP.

4. Chemical Substances

The chemical substances sector is considered important as this sector contributes medical and disinfection products that are needed during the coronavirus pandemic.

Also, some companies this this sector are changing focus due to coronavirus. For example, Los Especialistas is changing its focus from pest to control to disinfecting spaces.

This sector contributed about 3.8 trillion pesos ($0.96 billion USD) to Colombia’s GDP in 2019.

5. Wood, Paper and Cardboard Sectors

Carpentry and factories that dedicated to the modification of wooden articles, except furniture, will return to work. The paper and cardboard manufacturing industry also return to work.

These sectors contributed about 1.6 trillion pesos ($0.4 billion USD) to Colombia’s GDP last year.

6. Metals and Electronic Equipment Sectors

Metal manufacturing is important as metal is needed for construction and also manufacturing. Companies associated with the metals sector contributed about 1.6 trillion pesos ($0.4 billion USD) to the 2019 GDP in Colombia.

In addition, workshops where parts for the automotive segment are manufactured will be part of the reactivation, as this supports the transportation sector.

Furthermore, manufacturing and maintenance of telephone and computers needed for telecommuting will be reactivated.  The manufacture and maintenance of this type of equipment contributed about 0.59 trillion pesos to Colombia’s 2019 GDP.

New Sectors Permitted to Return to Work on May 11

Starting on May 11, several additional sectors will be permitted to return to work:

  1. Manufacture of furniture, mattresses and bed bases.
  2. Manufacture of motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers.
  3. Manufacture of computer, electronic and optical products.
  4. Manufacture of machinery and equipment.
  5. Maintenance and repair of motor vehicles.
  6. Maintenance and repair of technology and computer equipment.
  7. Wholesale and retail trade of vehicles (including parts, pieces and accessories).
  8. Wholesale trade of furniture and household goods.
  9. Wholesale trade of machinery and equipment.
  10. Retail trade of pet products.
  11. Retail trade of construction materials, hardware, locksmiths and glass and paint products in specialized stores.
  12. Retail trade of fuels, lubricants, additives and cleaning products for motor vehicles in specialized establishments.
  13. Retail trade of books, newspapers, materials, stationery and desks in specialized stores.
  14. Laundry services at home.
  15. Activities related to the operation of establishments providing vehicle maintenance services, appliances, boats, agricultural or fishing machinery, according to the different modes of transport, as well as the establishments in which the supply and / or installation of vehicles spare parts.
  16. Automotive diagnostic centers.

These sectors are in addition to previously permitted sectors.

President Duque stressed that these new sectors will be reactivated gradually and in accordance with the biosafety protocols issued by the Ministry of Health and Social Protection and according to the particular conditions at the regional level.

New Rules for Workers in Medellín During Quarantine

Up to an estimated 500,000 people working in the construction, manufacturing and other new permitted sectors will start to return to work in the Aburrá Valley.

They will join about 300,000 other people who were still working in basic sectors such as healthcare, food and banking, which means that in the Aburrá Valley up to 800,000 people will eventually be circulating daily.

According to the mayor of Medellín, Daniel Quintero, it is necessary to take new measures for transportation, companies and citizens, to avoid crowds and outbreaks of coronavirus.

The companies authorized to restart work and their employees have new requirements to operate. And in case of non-compliance or having more than two members of their teams infected with the virus, a company will have a two-week shutdown similar to what was already done at Plaza Minorista. These are the new requirements:

  • Each company authorized to return throughout the Aburrá Valley, must register on the Medellín Me Cuida platform, which has section for companies. On this site, employers must report their employees and the measures taken.
  • Employees who are going to be registered in this platform must also register. Also, this new requirement applies to health, call center, service and food companies, which have not stopped work during this quarantine.

The data on companies and employees will be connected to an application that the police will have on the street to verify whether or not people are authorized to go outside. In case they do not have permission, they will be sanctioned.

Employees of companies are only authorized to go from home to work and from work to home. And if any citizen who works for these companies has coronavirus or is in contact with someone infected, they should enter obligatory preventive isolation.

Companies from all over the Antioquia department will be able to register in the database, in case they have personnel who are in the Aburrá Valley or have to come to the Aburrá Valley.

The Medellin metro operates with a maximum 35 percent occupancy on its trains, photo taken on April 29

The Medellin metro operates with a maximum 35 percent occupancy on its trains, photo taken on April 29

In addition, the Medellín Metro may only operate with a maximum 35 percent occupancy on its trains. That means, there may be more and longer lines to use the Metro system. Police at the metro stations check IDs for Pico y Cedula or to see if you are authorized to work. Also, buses have the same 35 percent occupancy rule.

Metro stations that are normally busier like San Antonio, El Poblado and Industriales are more likely to have lines.

Line to enter Industriales metro station on April 29

Line to enter Industriales metro station on April 29

Furthermore, in the Aburrá Valley, all companies in the new sectors with exceptions from the quarantine (manufacturing and construction) must distribute their employees in three shifts:

  • From 6:00 am to 2:00 pm.
  • From 8:00 am to 4:00 pm.
  • From 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.

Also, companies with night hours can operate without a problem.

Lift the Quarantine: Leaving for Exercise Now Permitted

Starting on April 27, when the quarantine was extended to May 11, a new permitted activity is to leave the home for an hour for exercising including walking, jogging or biking for those aged 18 to 60 years old.

According to the Mayor of Medellín, Daniel Quintero, this is limited in the Aburrá Valley from between 2:00 and 3:00 pm. So, you can now leave the home to practice individual exercise activities for up on one hour per day.

However, outdoor gyms will be closed and those who go out must wear a face mask and cannot go more than a kilometer from their home and must be alone, not with others.

This is in addition to previous quarantine rules where you can take your dogs for a walk and also go grocery shopping, to the pharmacy or to banks. But going grocery shopping and to banks is limited in Medellín and the Aburrá valley by the rules of Pico y Cedula base on your ID.

Also, starting on May 11, children aged from  6 and 17 years, will be able go out three times a week for half an hour a day. If they are between the ages of 6 and 14 they should do so in the company of an adult and maintain rigorous discipline including masks to avoid further infections. In addition, this is limited tobetween 2:00 and 3:00 pm in Medellín.

What About Municipalities Without Coronavirus in Colombia – COVID-19 Free?

A primary concern of Colombia is slowing the expansion of the coronavirus pandemic in Colombia. However, in Colombia there are over 900 municipalities and six departments (states) where no coronavirus cases have been detected after over a month of being under quarantine.

By rapidly putting in place measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus, it appears that Colombia is being successful in containing the spread of coronavirus throughout all departments and cities and towns in Colombia.

We have looked at this in detail and found on May 23 in Colombia:

  • 91.7 percent of coronavirus cases were in only 10 departments or states (out of 33 departments – including the district capital of Bogotá).
  • 86.5 percent of the coronavirus cases were in only 18 cities in Colombia.
  • Over 790 municipalities in Colombia out of 1,099 municipalities did not have a single coronavirus case, with a total population of 12.0 million, which is approximately 24 percent of the total population of Colombia.
  • Three departments (states) in Colombia did not have a single coronavirus case: Guainía, Guaviare and Vichada.

In terms of municipalities in which coronavirus infections have not yet been confirmed with coronavirus cases, President Duque on April 20 said:

In hundreds of municipalities in Colombia, there have been no cases of COVID-19, so there we are going to promote a productive economic recovery but maintaining all the protocols for the protection of health and life.

Also, according to Diego Molano, head of the Administrative Department of the Presidency, is that the application of a mandatory quarantine should be different in the regions without “COVID-19”. Molano said on April 22:

So, in those regions without COVID-19, the isolation of older adults and children is maintained, but productive activity can be much more dynamic and not restricted in all sectors.

Molano further explained that this means that within the municipality they can have economic activity, but with a clear condition, “that it must be at a minimum distance of 60 kilometers from a COVID-19 municipality.” Also, that this is being coordinated by the Colombian government with local governors and mayors.

So, according to President Duque, it appears that Colombia is going to start to lift the quarantine somewhat in cities and towns and departments (states) without a coronavirus presence.

Departments in Colombia such as Vichada, Guainía are Arauca are among those that have not detected any cases.

Also, keep in mind that some municipalities in Colombia with coronavirus cases may start to become COVID-19 free with no new daily cases. We found that on May 23, a total of over 80 of the over 320 cities and towns in Colombia with at least one reported coronavirus case haven’t experienced a new case in over two weeks.

COVID-19 Free Municipalities Can Open

In the municipalities without affectation of COVID-19, all the economic opening will be allowed starting on May 11, with some exceptions: billiards, casinos and discotheques, churches, parks, gyms and sporting events.

This measure will only apply if the mayor expressly requests the Ministry of the Interior to reopen the sectors or activities that he deems pertinent and prior certification from the Instituto Nacional de Salud (INS) in this regard.

To guarantee that the municipalities remain uncontaminated, the local authorities must implement biosecurity measures at their borders.

Once the existence of a case of contagion in a municipality by the INS is certified, the opening of economic sectors carried out should be automatically restricted and the quarantine reestablished in general for the affected municipality. So, municipalities that open up need to remain virus free.

Starting on May 18, Colombia started to lift the quarantine in nearly 200 COVID-19 free municipalities, so they can start to return to normal.

How Long Can the Colombia National Quarantine Be Extended?

The national quarantine policy used by Colombia was evidently successful in preventing the spread of coronavirus throughout Colombia.

However, Colombia appears to be starting to reverse course and is starting to lift the quarantine for some sectors. But unless every trace of the infection is gone, an increase in new cases is possible when Colombia starts to relax the quarantine.

So, if new cases increase after starting to lift the quarantine, will Colombia return to a more stringent quarantine? It may take 12 to 18 months before a coronavirus vaccine is available. Colombia obviously can’t keep a quarantine in place for that long.

Colombia and other countries in the world are facing a dilemma. Epidemiologists and health experts recommend that people must distance themselves from each other to save many lives. But implementing a distancing strategy with a quarantine locks down the economy with crippling economic consequences.

At question is whether a quarantine strategy is sustainable and whether it can be kept in place for as long as a year or more.

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

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

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 Starts to Lift the Quarantine – What Does this Mean?

Colombia started to lift the quarantine in Colombia for some sectors of the economy, which permits up to 6 million people to return to work. And when Colombia starts to lift the quarantine for municipalities and regions that are COVID-19 free in Colombia, up to over 35 percent of Colombia could return to a more normal life.

By starting to lift the quarantine, Colombia may be heading down the path towards more of a mitigation strategy that protects those most at risk from the virus (the elderly and those with other underlying health conditions) while starting to free up the economy. We will find out next week what happens after the current national quarantine is supposed to end on May 31 – will it be extended again or will it be relaxed even more?

The challenge facing Colombia is now how to open things back up in the economy without increasing the rate of infections.

We recommend watching carefully the number of new cases reported in Colombia daily. Each day we update our popular article about coronavirus in Colombia with the current coronavirus statistics. If we see a downward trend, it becomes more likely that the lockdown will continue to be relaxed.

Also, watch the COVID-19 testing numbers in Colombia. We update our popular article about COVID-19 testing in Colombia daily. If COVID-19 testing numbers continue to increase, this is a very good thing, as this will help identify more of those who are infected in Colombia.

Ideally, testing could be used to check not only everyone who has symptoms but also their close contacts, so they could be identified as infected, isolated or quarantined as well.

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Editors note: updated on May 5, 2020 with updated coronavirus data for coronavirus free areas and added information that the quarantine in Colombia has been extended to May 25 and information about new sectors permitted to work on May 11.

Editors note: updated on May 8, 2020 with updated coronavirus data for coronavirus free areas.

Editors note: updated on May 10, 2020 with updated coronavirus data from May 9 for coronavirus free areas.

Editors note: updated on May 11, 2020 with updated coronavirus data for May 11 for coronavirus free areas.

Editors note: updated on May 12, 2020 with updated coronavirus data for May 12 for coronavirus free areas.

Editors note: updated on May 14, 2020 with updated coronavirus data for May 13 for coronavirus free areas.

Editors note: updated on May 16, 2020 with updated coronavirus data for May 15  for coronavirus free areas.

Editors note: updated on May 19, 2020 with updated coronavirus data for May 18 for coronavirus free areas and added information that the Colombia quarantine is extended to May 31.

Editors note: updated on May 21, 2020 with updated coronavirus data for May 20 for coronavirus free areas.

Editors note: updated on May 22, 2020 with updated coronavirus data for May 21 for coronavirus free areas.

Editors note: updated on May 24, 2020 with updated coronavirus data for May 23 for coronavirus free areas.

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