Living in Colombia During Times of COVID-19 (Update)

by | Feb 18, 2022 | Colombia | 1 comment

The New Normal

This week marks the fifth official week in Colombia since the beginning of its official nationwide quarantine on March 24th, 2020. All of us are now adjusting to a “new normal.”  For me, this new normal means working from home and finding a unique balance between work and personal life while trying to stay connected to my community in Medellin, my family in the United States, and finding the motivation to exercise.

On March 25th, Medellin implemented its ‘pico y cedula’  program, which limits the number of people allowed to go out any time with the goal to slow the spread of the Coronavirus. This meant that we could only leave the house twice a week to get groceries, go to the pharmacy, or run errands like paying bills. For now, the parks remain eerily empty. There is barely any traffic noise on the otherwise busy streets of Medellin. This city seems to be frozen in time.

Adapting to Quarantine Life in Colombia

An empty soccer field - Erin Colton
An empty soccer field – Erin Colton

I have adapted to my new routine at home. It has been an interesting change to the way I move about here in Columbia. For those who are not familiar with Latin-American culture, Colombians are very social and friendly people; they greet one another on the street with a “buenos dias”, “buenas tardes” or “buenas noches”. They love to spend time with their friends and they greet one another with a kiss on the cheek or a hug. And Sundays, that’s sacred family time!

I have grown accustomed to this friendly and social lifestyle. I love the physical contact, and I appreciate the customary greetings by strangers on the street. But for these past two weeks of the quarantine, my limited outings feel quite different. The mask I am required to wear covers my smile as I pass a neighbor or say “holá, que tal?” to a store clerk. I keep my head down in the grocery store and avoid contact with others. My interactions with people are brief to avoid unnecessary contact.

Everything here is regulated and regimented. To enter the stores, we must show our identification. To go into tiendas, we must sanitize our hands. Arbitrary lines on the ground suggest how far apart we should stand from other people. This is our new reality.

Yet, Corona Case Numbers Are Low

Keeping things clean in Medellin - Erin Colton
Keeping things clean in Medellin – Erin Colton

While the restrictions here are severe, the numbers of confirmed Coronavirus cases and deaths are relatively low compared to other countries. As of today, according to Worldometer, Colombia has recorded 5,949 confirmed cases and 269 deaths. We expect the national quarantine to extend officially until May 11th. International flights in and out of Colombia are banned, except for humanitarian flights. The full ban should last until the end of May, at least. Those who are part of the vulnerable population, over 70 years old, are also required to stay home until the end of May.

Colombia has acted quickly to contain the spread of the virus. For those of us who are lucky enough to being able to stay home and work, the quarantine has meant adjusting to a novel way of life.

Our freedom of movement is extremely limited, but on April 27th, the mayor of Medellin, Daniel Quintero, announced a new regulation. It permitted people to go out individually and exercise between the hours of 2-3 pm. On its first day of implementation, I went on a run for the first time in, what felt like, years. It felt strange to be outside running freely, yet people still stayed away from each other and kept to themselves. For the first time since the start of the pandemic, I felt a sense of “normalcy” in a world that has changed in so many unfamiliar ways.

If you would like to know more about how Columbia dealt with the Corona situation, comment below, and I will be sure to respond quickly.

by: Erin Colton-Enberg