Confusion reigns as Duque and López go back-and-forth on Bogotá shutdown

By Luke Barnes March 19, 2020

It was on, then it looked off, and now it’s very much on again.

Bogotá mayor Claudia López explaining the lockdown. Photo: Claudia López

After initially announcing that Bogotá would be heading into a shutdown isolation simulation this weekend to combat the coronavirus, mayor Claudia López’ plans were thrown into confusion on Wednesday by the national government.

A decree published by the government stated that the management of the coronavirus pandemic needed to be approved by the president. “For the sake of public order, the departmental, district and municipal authorities need to previously coordinate and be in accordance with the president’s instructions”, it added.

Bogotá’s isolation drill: Everything you need to know

The decree seemed to suggest that López had acted too unilaterally, a point which she quickly responded to on Twitter Wednesday night. 

She said she’d coordinated the simulation plans directly with the president yesterday. “Today we’ll expedite it and make it obligatory. This is not the moment for competitions and infantile vanities but for looking after ourselves.”

Duque then appeared to backtrack, lending his support to the simulation, while also signing a decree emphasising that the national government would take priority in leading the fight against the coronavirus. During a press conference Thursday night, Duque was keen to emphasise that all levels of the Colombian government were cooperating with each other.

The shutdown will go into effect at 11.59 pm on Thursday and last until 11.59 pm on Monday. Essential services and businesses – like buying food and pharmaceutical provisions, health work, sanitation and security – are all exempt from the decree. 

Read all our coverage on the coronavirus in Colombia

As of Thursday, Colombia has 102 confirmed coronavirus cases. The largest number of those (45) are located in Bogotá with the rest scattered throughout the country. According to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Digital map the Latin American countries which currently have more are Brazil (533), Chile (238), Ecuador (168) and Panama (109).

Both Duque and López made it clear that, regardless of government plans to combat the pandemic, citizen participation would be key. “We need the best from everyone,” Duque said in a press conference Thursday. “Both in our homes and public spaces. We all need to give this the necessary caution and protect ourselves during these circumstances.”

“We’re a great city, and a great nation,” López tweeted. “We’re going to come out of this stronger. More united and more conscious of the changes we need to make in our lifestyles.”