Covid History

Although virtually all pandemic emergency measures are now history, it bears reminding that Colombia had one of the world’s longest lockdowns (5 months) and had shorter lockdowns well into 2021. It, however, lifted all measures much faster than most other countries.

IF Colombia was to turn back the page, it bears looking at past measures the various Colombian authorities (central, departamento and municipal) implemented in 2020-21 in response to the worldwide pandemic…

  • Non essential Businesses & Workers decrees: If you were not an essential worker, you were required to stay home, period. Thus the Rappi delivery guy could roam freely all day and night but a gym trainer couldn’t. Pharmacies, grocery stores, banks and any restaurant with home delivery could operate. Virtually anything else was ordered closed. Taxi drivers were deemed essential, as were other public transport workers and truck drivers.
  • Decree on Seniors: Seniors 70 and over in Colombia were subject to the world’s longest and severest lockdown by order of the health minister, and it was much longer by several months than what the rest of the population endured.
  • Pico y cédula: Based on the last digit on your cédula (national ID card) or passport you could go out on indicated days to buy groceries or medication as well as do your banking. This was at the municipal level and could vary from one to the next. There were very few exceptions like a medical emergency, walking your dog, or to do exercise (exceptions varied according to the jurisdiction) and if caught outside when not authorized, you could be fined and even imprisoned. At first you could leave your home twice a week, and eventually it became just once as the numbers allowed on a given day were reduced.
  • Total Lockdowns: At the end of 2020 and into 2021 the national health minister decreed total lockdowns during major holidays including Christmas, New Year’s, Reyes Magos and Easter. Except for an emergency, not a single person could leave their home. Talk about the Grinch who stole Christmas!
  • In-Store Measures: Essential businesses had to enforce pico y cedula, temperature checks, hand sanitizing, masking and social distancing. This would invariably result in long lines at grocery stores.
  • Traveling inside Colombia: All intercity travel was prohibited, and if you didn’t escape to your finca (country home) fast enough, you might have been turned away at the checkpoints that appeared later. Mayors of villages and small towns openly told city dwellers to stay away.
  • International airports: Airports were operating with war-like measures with only the rare outbound “evacuation” flight for foreign passport holders.
  • Municipal border controls: Some municipalities went as far as controlling their borders, preventing non-residents from entering. For example, Sabaneta and Envigado in Antioquia did this, though it wasn’t for long probably because it was impractical.

We know that Colombia was not alone in applying drastic measures, and we left out some of the more superficial ones, but I can tell you that it was miserable and depressing and let’s never do that again! This was all too recently, so we don’t think we can sweep it under the carpet, especially since Covid is still around and other viruses are manifesting themselves.

Photo by Colombia Dreaming: Lines to enter Jose Maria Cordova airport in Medellín for the only evacuation flight to the USA that day – April 21, 2020

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