Cuarentena Estricta: how was it for you?

By Oli Pritchard July 27, 2020

As Chapinero joins seven other sectors in exiting two weeks of strict quarantine, we evaluate the effects of the increased lockdown.

Plenty of people in the park during cuarentena estricta.
Plenty of people in the park. Photos: Oli Pritchard

The cuarentena estricta for eight sectors of Bogotá was lifted today, as per the schedules listed. But how much changed over a fortnight of heavy lockdown? Well, not much at all, in truth. If you were in the Parque Nacional on Sunday afternoon, you would have seen a festival of picnickers and strollers. Footfall wasn’t affected much in the zone as a whole, but at least free testing was made available.

The Parque Nacional served as a useful petri dish – a high-profile, clearly visible landmark of Bogotá. It’s split between Chapinero and Santa Fe, both of which were under the same regulations. Although in the first days there were far fewer people than normal, by last weekend it was at more or less full capacity. Like people, parks do bounce back. Ice cream sellers were out in force and there were plenty of family and friend groupings.

The official line on exercise was that it was banned throughout the area under quarantine. In reality, there were joggers, tennis players and footballers throughout the park. Masses of mountain bikers and a few real cyclists charged up and down the hills, straight past the home of the mounted police with nary a word. The ciclovía was largely operational.

Elsewhere in the zone, there was limited adherence to the stricter regulations. Lili Pink continued to keep their doors open, for some reason, but about half of the local papelerías closed. It seems that essential services include lingerie but not photocopies. Carrera 13 stayed largely open for business, as did most restaurants and all the tiendas. The dry cleaners and tailors shut their doors, but were open if one were to knock on the door.

It’s worth noting that those dry cleaners are about 50m from the police station, so it’s hard to believe that this is fully clandestine. The police continue to play a complicated role in this pandemic – they abandoned the Parque Nacional completely towards the end of the first week, giving it a quite sketchy feel. A few people reported seeing police cars pulling over more people throughout the zone, but there didn’t seem to be any more boots on the ground.

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Of course, it was made yet easier by the fact that strolling across county lines was no problem at all. So, although my local hardware store was closed, a five-minute hop across the Caracas solved that problem quickly. It seems a little unfair and somewhat counterproductive – many people continued to go out and get stuff done, but they simply had to cover a bit more ground and create more opportunity for infection.

So in the end, cuarentena estricta had some effect, but probably less than had been hoped for. After a day or two of adaptation, people reverted to how they had been before, but some more businesses shut their doors. The real effect may be more subtle: Further erosion of respect for the rules and less obvious reasons to follow the rules.