Bogotá to shut down for four days in coronavirus drill

By Emma Newbery March 17, 2020

City authorities are asking citizens to stay at home for a four-day isolation practice.

The streets of Bogotá will be empty for four days during an isolation drill. Photo: Melanie Alsop

Bogotá mayor Claudia López announced this evening that the capital would shut down over the coming bank holiday weekend in an isolation simulation. The mayor called on people to remain in their houses for four days, beginning on Friday March 20. 

Find out the details of how the isolation drill will work and how it might affect you.

She stressed that this was only a drill but a necessary one. “This is something that we’ll have to do eventually. I invite the citizens to participate in this exercise because, when we do have to do it, it’s better that we know how to do it, we know how it went.” 

López said that this has not happened before, but expressed the hope that other local authorities will follow suit. The idea is to minimise the disruption by holding it over a holiday weekend, but also to make it realistic by including a weekday.

Four-day isolation to include everybody

“Everybody is everybody,” the mayor said. “All of us will stay at home for four days.” She said that people are free to use their cars on Wednesday and Thursday to go out and run any errands that are needed.

Follow all our coverage about the coronavirus in Colombia

A lot of the details of the plan will become clearer tomorrow, especially as López is keen to consult the public. “We’ve been thinking a lot about the rules for the drill, but we’ll put it to the citizens tomorrow so that people can contribute,” she said.

While the idea is that the city will stop completely, certain professions — such as doctors and emergency services — will be able to work. “We’ve never done this. It’s the first time that we’re going to do it. We have to learn how to do it – it’s part of the new challenges we face.”

In addition to the restrictions, López also announced measures to support the city. The city will extend lines of credit to businesses who have been particularly affected such as restaurants and entertainment companies.

Bogotá has restrictions but also assistance

The time period to pay certain taxes, such as predial and the Registro Mercantil, has been extended. Supercades will continue to operate, but will implement a pico y placa system (where people can use the services on alternate days depending on whether their cédula ends in an odd or even number.)

Public spaces such as museums and libraries will be closed temporarily. Bogotá will join Cundinamarca in restricting the sale of alcohol. The city’s parks will remain open, but with controls to ensure that people are able to enjoy them and still keep a suitable distance from others. 

The mayor finished by calling for calm and co-operation, stressing that it was an opportunity for bogotanos to work together with empathy, patience and collective intelligence. “This will be a new cultural challenge for the citizens of Bogotá. It’s extraordinary,” she said.