BOGOTA – Colombian President Ivan Duque ordered on Friday a mandatory nationwide 19-day lockdown from next week to prevent the spread of the coronavirus that has infected at least 158 people in the country.
“We will apply mandatory preventive isolation from next Tuesday, March 24 at 11:59 pm until Monday, April 13 at zero hours,” Duque said in an address to the country.
The president underlined the need for taking “drastic but urgent decisions” in the wake of the outbreak of COVID-19 caused by the deadly novel coronavirus.
The president added that this measure did not imply the suspension of any of the preventive isolation drills that were underway in the country, such as the one in Bogota that began on Friday and will continue until midnight Monday, March 23.
“This measure seeks to protect us as a society by guaranteeing food supplies, access to medicines, the adequate provision of essential public services as well as those essential for the functioning of society,” he said.
“This is a measure of health and life. We know how much is demanded of all of us. That is why it has been a slow and structured decision taken alongside experts and these are measures to protect the most vulnerable too,” Duque further said.
“Coronavirus is a disease that is spreading at full speed, but if we do the right thing we can stop its pace of expansion,” he said.
Duque explained that the measures adopted by the government to reduce social contact had been done in consultation with a “scientific and technical” team that had “analyzed the epidemiological trends potentially facing Colombia in the coming weeks concerning the coronavirus.”
In recent days, the government has announced a one month ban on the entry of travelers into the country, including Colombians, and the measure will come into effect at zero hours on Monday next week.
The country has already suspended face-to-face classes in educational institutions, sealed borders, banned gatherings of more than 50 people, and temporarily shut bars and nightclubs.
However, the seriousness of the global situation concerning the pandemic prompted Duque to order the 19-day lockdown of the country as an additional measure.
The Colombian government has estimated that nearly four million people in the country, or 8.1 percent of the population, could be infected by COVID-19, according to the state of the emergency decree signed this week by the president and his ministers.
Shortly before the president’s address, the Ministry of Health reported that 13 new cases of coronavirus had been confirmed in recent hours, bringing the total number of infections up to 158.