Colombia Deploys Service Members to Contain COVID-19 Spread
By Yolima Dussán / Diálogo April 07, 2020
Colombia is fighting to contain the coronavirus spread with a robust package of measures authorities took after declaring a state of national emergency focused on a lockdown, which started at 12 a.m. on March 23.
The mandatory order will last until at least April 13. The country reported its first case of infection on March 3.
“These 19 days will be crucial to protect ourselves, and this situation demands our solidarity, collaboration, and discipline,” said Colombian President Iván Duque in his daily coronavirus briefing.
With the support of the Military Forces, the government has taken radical measures since the outbreak began. As weeks went by, measures intensified. “Many people might see this as confinement, but I think it’s a time to gather with our families, to think of our fellow humans,” Duque added. “We are going to adopt the necessary measures to protect the population, to protect each other. We will not tolerate violations of the national quarantine.”
Colombia’s measures began on March 16 with a ban on large-scale events and the suspension of classes at schools and universities. Three days later, the ban extended to restaurants, bars, gyms, and nightclubs.
Leisure facilities, where human contact is greater, are a breeding ground for the virus to spread; it is necessary to close them temporarily, said Minister of Commerce, Industry, and Tourism José Manuel Restrepo in a press release.
On March 17, the country went a step further and announced the closure of all land, maritime, and riverine borders. The action bans, until further notice, the entry and exit of foreign nationals.
Only vehicles transporting basic products or humanitarian relief supplies are allowed to enter. Public gatherings of more than 50 people are not allowed. Only banks, grocery stores, gas stations, and hospitals remain open.
The Colombian Military Forces work relentlessly to ensure compliance with the lockdown. They also deploy operations nationwide to bring supplies to communities in need.
More than 30,000 police officers are patrolling the streets in cities and municipalities to help at any time. In addition, the Army has deployed 519 checkpoints with more than 13,000 service members, as well as 306 checkpoints on main roads with 7,200 agents of the National Police Traffic Department, authorities said.
At these checkpoints, authorities also conduct prevention and awareness tasks to prevent the coronavirus spread. Masks made by the military are distributed at certain locations.
The Armed Forces distribute water and pantry items in neighborhoods and communities to discourage people from going to more populated areas where they usually buy their supplies. The Air Force has deployed border surveillance operations to strengthen land controls and prevent the entry of people and the spread of COVID-19.
“The public force continues its mission of ensuring the safety of Colombians,” said Minister of Defense Holmes Trujillo. “To our military, we send our full appreciation and honor.”
The government, the Military Forces, and the population are united in a quarantine that few believe will end on April 13. Meanwhile, the state has designed a comprehensive funding assistance program for all sectors, with subsidies, downtime for payments and credits, reorganization of the national budget, national and regional funding allocations, anything necessary to contain the spread of the virus.