MEDELLIN, Colombia – Medellin took the lead in Colombia’s fight against COVID-19 and now in the economic revival with the reopening of shopping centers, a pilot plan to reopen restaurants and the beginning of a “citizen responsibility phase.”
The second-largest city of Colombia set an example on Tuesday in its results to mitigate the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus with the use of technology, which allowed various sectors to return as quickly as possible to activity paralyzed by the national quarantine that began on March 25.
“Today Medellin has everything open, except restaurants, hotels and bars. That puts us ahead of the reopening of any other city in Colombia,” said the mayor of the city, Daniel Quintero, during the presentation of the “Yo Cuido a Medellin” (I Take Care of Medellin) campaign on Tuesday.
This city, recognized as the most innovative city in the world in 2013, has registered 658 cases of COVID-19 and four deaths, figures that are much better than those of the other large Colombian capitals. In addition, 385 people have recovered and there are only 269 active cases.
Colombia has recorded 40,719 confirmed cases, 1,308 deaths and 16,427 people who have recovered, as well as 22,984 active cases.
The favorable figures have allowed Medellin to relax some restrictions and enter the “citizen responsibility phase,” in which the reopening of shopping centers and the gradual reactivation of trade in general were the highlights.
“We are already moving from the restrictions and the difficult part to civic culture,” said the mayor about the new phase after reactivating areas such as public transport, where the authorities took the temperature of commuters, installed portable sinks and put up signs about physical distancing.
Due to its tight management of the pandemic, Medellin was the first city in the country to begin the gradual reopening of stores through a pilot plan in three shopping centers to test biosafety protocols for employees and customers.
These spaces began operating in early June with temperature monitoring, disinfection and hand-washing points, and under the magnifying glass of the “Medellin Me Cuida” (Medellin Takes Care of Me) platform, which collects data from citizens to build “very strong” epidemiological barriers.
In the coming days, as announced by the mayor, this capital city of the department of Antioquia (northwest) will undergo pilot testing in other establishments with the purpose of a general commercial reopening.
The next goal is for restaurants to reopen their doors, a strategy that involves rigorous data management.
Medellin has already developed a platform for this purpose and all that is needed is the endorsement of the national government to start gradually opening the gastronomic sector.
“It is important to reach that moment when we can completely reopen the economy,” said Quintero, who explained that the plan includes reopening with reservations only and asking the restaurants to report “who visited the place and at which table their customers were seated.”
As part of the protection campaign, the initiative “I Take Care of Medellin” was launched to reinforce practices such as the use of face masks and a call for “cooperation” and “civic culture” to keep the coronavirus at bay.
This project began by covering the sculptures of the Colombian painter and sculptor Fernando Botero, located in the center of the city, with large masks to raise awareness.
“In Medellin, even Botero’s fat women put on masks,” said the mayor.
“This city has been a very great example for all of Colombia and Latin America with its numbers of contagion and deaths. We love our city very much,” Nelson Vera, a watchmaker, told EFE.
In order to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, Medellin has been decisive in the management of the outbreaks. The first took place at Plaza de Mercado Minorista, which was closed for 14 days due to the contagion of more than 50 people.
The city’s health secretary, Andrea Uribe, said she was convinced that “the success of the figures in Medellin has been linked to the commitment of citizens,” and now they hope to continue “being an example for Latin America.”