Colombia extends quarantine until May 25, but relaxes rules

By Freek Huigen May 5, 2020

President Duque announces that quarantine in Colombia will continue, but that more sectors of the economy will open up. Sales of cars and furniture as well as stationery shops, laundry services and book stores to open on May 11.

President Duque announces that the quarantine in Colombia will be extended with two weeks. Photo: Presidencia

With less than a week to go until May 11 when the current quarantine is set to end, Colombian President Iván Duque announced that the obligatory lockdown will again be extended until May 25.

Repeatedly stressing that any relaxation of the rules would happen in a ‘responsible’ way, the president said that he knows how many people are worried about when they can start work and when the country will get back to normal. 

Read our latest coverage on the coronavirus in Colombia

“We’re taking steps forward to protect lives,” he said. “But also to open up the country.”

To that end, Colombia will continue its strategy of gradual opening. Two weeks ago Duque said that construction and manufacturing sectors would be able to return to work under strict protocols. In yesterday’s presidential press briefing, the minister for housing, Jonathan Malagón, said that 350,000 people had already been able to get back to work and another 150,000 would follow. 

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After May 11 – and following the protocols that have now been established – the car, furniture and other industrial sectors will be able to resume. At a more local level, laundrettes, stationary stores and bookshops will be able to open.

Plus, young people aged between 6 and 17 will now be allowed to go out to exercise. This is to be permitted three times a week and for only half an hour – a small step that the government says is to give people a little more mental and physical health.

Traffic on the autopista Norte remains low as quarantine is extended again. Photo: Brendan Corrigan

Health minister, Fernando Ruiz said, “We understand that being in quarantine with children is difficult. But we have to take into account that children are the main transmitters of COVID-19 and that around 70% of children here live with older people.”

We’ve had several reports in recent days that Bogotá is already starting to re-open, but in a cautious way. A garden centre in Chapinero sprayed customers with anti-bacterial gel as they entered the store, while deputy editor Oliver Pritchard reports that several small businesses such as stationers and hardware shops have opened in Chapinero, often in full view of the authorities. These shops are obeying similar rules to restaurants: service bars at the entrance and facemasks needed to enter. Long (and mostly male) queues were seen outside banks today, but again most people were wearing face masks and maintaining metre distances.

Long queues for a bank in calle 72, but people kept their distance during quarantine in Colombia. Photo: Chris Payne

Yesterday’s briefing had a self congratulatory tone, as the government highlighted the number of ICU beds available and how much help had been given to those in need. Tonight, however, the president sought to reassure the public that life would return to normal – just in a gradual and controlled manner.

Finally the president announced that the municipalities which have not seen any confirmed cases of COVID-19 will be able to reopen with restrictions. There’ll be no big gatherings, no bars, no group sports and no restaurant meals.

The global COVID-19 death toll passed the 250,000 mark yesterday and many nations around the world are also gradually reopening. In Germany, some children are back in school, small shops are open and limited church services are allowed. Museums, parks and galleries are also operating under reduced services to provide critically needed public space. States and territories in Australia have lifted a lot of their restrictions. Social gatherings of 10 people are now allowed in some parts of the country and some national parks are open again. Spain, like Colombia, has allowed the manufacturing and construction industry to return to work and let people go out to exercise.