BOGOTA – The coronavirus pandemic moved closer to the Colombian and Venezuelan governments on Monday with officials from both nations taking part in a virtual meeting, the first bilateral meeting in more than a year, to exchange information about COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, along portions of the mutual border with the help of the Pan American Health Organization.
Colombia is one of the more than 50 countries who do not recognize Nicolas Maduro as president of Venezuela, despite the fact that the two countries’ health ministers met on Monday, according to what officials said on Tuesday.
Colombian Health Minister Fernando Ruiz said that on Monday he held a virtual meeting with his Venezuelan counterpart, Carlos Alvarado, and with the PAHO representative in Venezuela, Gerardo de Cosio, a meeting that lasted 46 minutes and at which strategies were discussed to contain the epidemic and protect the health of the two nations’ most vulnerable populations.
The Colombian Health Ministry reported the meeting in a statement on Tuesday, although the two nations have not had bilateral diplomatic relations since Feb. 23, 2019, as per Maduro’s decision, after the attempt by the opposition leader of Venezuela’s parliament and interim President Juan Guaido to cross the border from the Colombia city of Cucuta at the head of a caravan of humanitarian aid, a move that ended in chaos.
However, since last week, Maduro and members of his government have been proposing to Colombian President Ivan Duque taking joint measures against the coronavirus and PAHO helped to bring about their first actual meeting on the subject.
Ruiz said that PAHO will support the evaluation of needs to respond to and intervene against COVID-19 in the two nations, where 65 people are known to have been infected in Colombia and 33 in Venezuela.
The Colombian minister emphasized that making bilateral contact is a basic requirement in the early phases of the epidemic so that information can be exchanged along the common border 2,219 kilometers (1,375 miles) in length.
The minister said that Venezuela informed Colombia about the measures it had been taking against the virus, including the quarantine ordered on Tuesday by Maduro to attempt to halt the spread of the virus.
Ruiz added that bilateral contact will be maintained via PAHO to review additional measures needed to monitor the border situation.
Despite this first contact, Ruiz said that Colombia will continue to keep its border with Venezuela closed, after making that move last Saturday.