Mayor seeks to ban large gatherings among moves to delay spread of COVID-19.
Citizens of Colombia’s capital woke this morning to a raft of new rules and recommendations planned by Mayor Claudia López to stop the spread of the coronavirus in Bogotá. These include the postponement of public events, teleworking from home and intensive disinfection of public spaces and transport systems.
The “yellow alert has legal force, is obligatory to comply with,” said López last night.
“We are in change mode for our daily habits to care for ourselves and those around us.”
The announcement followed a national decree yesterday forcing arrivals in the country from China, Italy, Spain and France to self-isolate for two weeks. Bogotá now has three confirmed cases of coronavirus, and Colombia has nine in total.
Among collective measures announced, López asked businesses and schools to organise home working and study, arrange rotas to ease congestion on transport systems, and for event organisers to postpone shows with concentrations of more than 1,000 people.
The district authority will also ramp up its disinfection procedures with the spraying of public spaces and buses, and temporary hand-washing basins at transport hubs. Schools and colleges are also expected to do daily cleaning.
The measures will not stop contagion – which is already happening, explained the mayor – but to delay the spread to allow health service to cope with severe cases and gain time for the scientific community to find cures, which currently don’t exist for the virus which originated in China late last year.
Wash your hands
López also reinforced practices such as frequent hand washing to reduce the epidemic.
“Panic is not going to take care of us, but self-care is going to help. To prevent the health system collapse we must reduce contagion by 50%, which relies on washing hands, reducing contact and timely reporting the symptoms,” she said.
Another plank of the mayor’s proposal was to streamline health services via the city’s health secretariat. Coronavirus response would supersede the current patchwork of private and public health facilities and instead dedicated teams would “work together by territorial distribution.”
The goal was to try and treat COVID-19 confirmed patients in their homes to decongest health facilities and stop the virus from spreading further, she announced.
Health teams will also attempt to attend people at home with other chronic health problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure, to avoid these mostly older patients – and those statistically most at risk from severe coronavirus symptoms – travelling to health centres where they are more likely to be infected.
López’s stance was widely welcomed by commentators this morning, though it is still not clear what legal footing the action plan has in place, or whether it is all achievable.
But the fact that Bogotá is talking tough – rather than the usual platitudes of “keep calm” from world leaders – suggests the city’s leadership has studied the crisis in other countries and is moving the get ahead of the outbreak, even with just three cases confirmed locally.
And putting collective responsibility to the crisis was also seen as a bold move, and copies the successful strategy lauded in some Asian countries such as Singapore and South Korea.
The mayor reminded the media and NGOs present yesterday that “this is not a challenge from the Ministry of Health or the Ministry of Health, but from each citizen”.
“It is literally in everyone’s hands to prevent the infection and respond properly to the coronavirus.”