Due to the discovery of the virulent new COVID-19 Coronavirus mutation in the United Kingdom, Colombia’s Ministry of Health and Social Protection Sunday announced the suspension of flights and inadmissibility of visitors from the UK. In response, air carrier Avianca has already canceled its three weekly flights between London and Bogotá.
Avianca issued a statement saying “The company understands and shares that the priority is the well-being and health of both passengers and crews. Therefore, it will be attentive to the definitions of the national government and will continuously review the feasibility of the resumption of operations.” Passengers should contact the airline immediately to arrange for refunds or modifications to travel itineraries.
Over the weekend, the Colombian government decided to suspend the entry of flights from the United Kingdom immediately, either direct or by connection; and it will only allow the entry of travelers in the following cases:
- Colombians and foreigners with permanent residence in Colombia, that is, holders of a migrant visa, resident visa or courtesy visa and their beneficiaries in the country. These passengers must comply with the sanitary measures adopted by the Ministry of Health and Social Protection for this purpose.
- People belonging to diplomatic bodies duly accredited in the country.
- Foreigners who start their flight to the country before the effective date of the resolution.
- The crew of the aircraft.
The government also resolved that inadmissible foreigners must return to the country of origin immediately upon arrival, placing responsibility with the airline to arrange return on the next flight with the return costs of the inadmissible passengers assumed by the airline, in accordance with the provisions of Decree 1067 of 2015.
The health ministry also indicated that in cases where the final destination of the passengers who are allowed to enter the country does not correspond to the point of entry into the country, the transfer to the final destination will be made with all biosecurity measures and conditions. of transit and / or connection established by the Ministry of Health and Social Protection and the Special Administrative Unit of Aerocivil (Civil Aviation Authority).
Recent international arrivals to Colombia
Isolation and a 14 day quarantine is mandated for people in transit who boarded before the adoption of the measure and who enter the country, by air. These passengers are ordered to report immediately to local health authorities if they present COVID-19 symptoms. If symptoms appear during transit, such as while onboard an aircraft, they must immediately inform the crew and comply with the prescribed protocols.
For those people who entered Colombia on or after December 12, they must also carry out a 14-day quarantine, and they will be evaluated by the EPS (health plan), or the territorial entity in the case of travelers who are not members. For those who entered between December 5 to 11, symptoms will also be monitored.
The new genetic mutation
Colombia’s health ministry issued a communiqué explaining that in the case of Colombia, two lineages or genetic variants of the virus have been detected circulating, and 12 sub-lineages have been recognized, that is, the virus that infects Colombians is not necessarily the same as that of other countries, therefore, local viruses are recognized, as well as global genetic variants of SARS-CoV-2.
The new variant that has been recognized in the United Kingdom, identified as VUI-202012/01 is defined by a set of 17 changes or mutations, with one designated as N501Y being significant as it modifies the “spike” protein, which virus uses to bind to the human ACE2 receptor.
Changes in this part of the protein can, in theory, although the evidence is not yet sufficient, make the virus more infectious and spread more easily between people. Rapid spread of this new lineage has been reported in the UK, although for now there is no evidence that this makes the virus more lethal than the