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Colombia: Experts warn of COVID-19 surge as President Duque considers reopening businesses

“Colombia’s Iván Duque Gambles On Reopening” – 2 July 2020

…Coming off the worst quarterly economic contraction in Colombia’s history – and with unemployment rates rising steadily – Duque has started to allow businesses to reopen. But as they do, there is a risk that some political gains – and the cautious, technocratic image that the president has finally started to cultivate – could be short-lived. Colombians are now debating both whether Duque closed down the country too quickly and as whether he is easing restrictions too soon…Duque’s approach has been one of “intelligent, preventive isolation” – a logistically complex strategy that entails regionalizing lockdown measures according to risk. Cities with a relatively good coronavirus outlook are able to reopen while the executive branch, the health and interior ministries, and local officials monitor progress to make sure that numbers don’t jump. This strategy has worked well in the department of Antioquia and its capital Medellín, a successful example of pandemic management and what a safe “new normal” can look like. But other major cities have not been so lucky. After reopening, Cali has again reached 200 new cases per day. Cartagena has had to re-close entire neighborhoods. The departments of Atlántico, on the Caribbean coast, and Chocó, on the Pacific, governments have had to reinstate total lockdowns. While Duque’s government says that shopping crowds were far more limited than a few outlier examples suggest, epidemiologists have warned of a possible return of the virus as a result of the decision. Duque says he will keep going, and repeat VAT holidays twice more in July, though with more significant social distancing measures in place and added incentives to encourage e-commerce…