After 13 days of quarantine, Colombia will extend the obligatory lockdown by two more weeks.
President Iván Duque announced this evening that the quarantine in Colombia will continue for a further two weeks, now finishing at 11.59 pm on April 26. The quarantine was originally set to end at 11.59 pm on April 12, though there has been speculation that it could continue as far as June.
The countrywide quarantine has seen businesses, schools and universities shut down, with only essential services remaining open. One person per household is allowed to go out to shop for groceries and medicines or to walk dogs. Unlike other countries, Colombia’s shutdown does not make exceptions for those wanting to walk or jog.
The lockdown has hit the country’s most vulnerable the hardest. From the Venezuelan migrants to the poorest Colombians, there are reports of vulnerable informal workers being forced from their homes. Obviously those who normally survive through selling on the street are struggling as people stay home.
Our interviews with residents of Soacha last week showed that many there were holding out for April 13, the original end date for the countrywide quarantine. Businesses, too, are suffering with one small business owner telling us, “The great majority [of small businesses] will go into bankruptcy.”
The challenge for Colombia, with so many living day-to-day or week-to-week, is balancing the country’s very real economic challenges with the equally real public health ones.
Just yesterday the president had said the quarantine could not continue indefinitely and had suggested the possibility of intelligent isolation. “Depending on the behaviour of the epidemiological curve, next week we will report if the quarantine is extended or if we move to intelligent isolation,” he said.
However, with another 94 new Colombian COVID-19 cases and 11 deaths confirmed today in Colombia – taking the total cases to 1,579 and the total deaths to 46 – Duque told the nation that the current obligatory quarantine would be extended for another 14 days.
“The measures we’ve taken have been positive,” he said. “Our challenge is to continue to save lives.”