Bogotá’s strict quarantine: Cuarentena in the strictest sense?

By Oli Pritchard August 16, 2020

This time the authorities mean business. The police have already enforced this quarantine more than the past six weeks.

Military police on Carrera 13. Photo: Oli Pritchard

The city’s new wave of strict quarantine measures seem to be the real deal this time around. With seven sectors of the city under cuarentena estricta, this final fortnight follows six weeks of sector-specific lockdown. Up until now, the implementation of these heightened measures has been fairly lax and it was widely thought that this one would be similar. However, the first morning of the new regulations – applying to barrios such as Teusaquillo and Usaquén for the first time – has seen police enforcing the rules.

In the Parque Nacional, a high-profile and easily visible spot for flaunting the rules, police moved around 10 am to send a load of mountain bikers home, then cleared the upper reaches of the park. There isn’t a time limit on these restrictions, other than the post 8 pm curfew, but it appears that mid-morning matters. After the cyclists were given their marching orders, other exercisers were commanded to jog on and even dog walkers told they were ‘bad owners’.

Police send exercisers home

Eventually, even people on the séptima were sent home and the only cyclists continuing on the cicloruta were commuters. This is a sea change from the previous laissez-faire approach. This time it’s not the alcaldía half-heartedly attempting to keep order, it’s police motorbikes, cars and horses getting involved with sirens. They’ve set down a marker already, and only time will tell if they will continue in the same vein.

Usual street vendors absent from Calle 53. Photo: Emma Newbery

Elsewhere in the city, various people have reported fewer street sellers hawking their wares, even for a Sunday. As before, mask-wearing is being stuck to very well. Our reporter in Galerías clocked up 68 people with masks covering faces, only five with neck-masks while talking on the phone or drinking coffee and nobody unmasked. She also commented that there wasn’t a single street seller by the shopping centre.

Usaquén quieter than usual

In Usaquén, our man on the street says it’s quieter than usual. He saw police stopping two separate groups for cédula checks. Hardly super-unusual, but not something he’s seen before in the neighbourhood. In south Chapinero there are few people on the street and a single shoe-shiner waits forlornly for trade that refuses to pass him.

It’s not all heavy-handed, though. Lourdes in Chapinero seems to be fairly busy, and there are plenty of people on the streets. Joggers have crossed over from Usaquén to get their exercise in and things seem to be roughly normal.

One of our team described San Luis as ‘deserted’ — though it’s not usually bustling on a Sunday — and reported a police checkpoint on Carrera 24 with 63. It’s hard to know for sure, but police presence seems to have stepped up. Military police were also on Carrera 13 near the Ecopetrol building and one reader said motorcycle police were moving séptima vendors on.

Overall, it’s going to be hard to judge fully until we hit the working week. Many businesses are loth to open on a Sunday, even less so when there’s a holiday following. Tuesday will give us a lot more information about the state of play, but the suspicion has to be that this lockdown may well be stricter than before. It’s certainly true that there has been a statement from the police today, but what that signifies is as yet unknown.