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 News from Colombia

Covid lockdown, taxis and more

COVID - The city of Bogota is in lockdown all day starting January 8. The condition will last until 4 a.m. Tuesday January 12. After that the there should be no one on the streets between 8 p.m. and 4 a,m. until January 17. That may be extended to January 21.

Many hospitals in the city are at capacity or near capacity especially those in the Northwest part of the city. In addition it is estimated that over one million people left Bogota for the holidays and will be returning in the next few days.

Explanations for the increase in cases range from citizens not obeying the social distancing to the more infections strain of Covid-19 from United Kingdom now being in Colombia. The former makes sense as on one of our outings to attend a medical appointment my wife and I saw many people standing in line for restaurants and not obeying social distancing rules. There seems to be a great deal of lax behavior by many people around Bogota.

Planes, hotels, restaurants and large gatherings are considered some of places most prone for spreading the virus. Yet in the next few days over one million Bogotanos are expected to return to the city after vacationing outside of it. And most have been in hotels, restaurants and planes. Not to mention that large gatherings are the norm for this holiday season.

TAXIS GETTING WORSE?- Graciela and I stay inside as much as possible. However when we do have medical appointments and when we must go shopping taxis are used. Some have a plastic sheet or plexiglass between the back seat and the front. Others have nothing. There is debate of whether the division is good for passengers or not as the large surface can hold virus remnants from previous passengers. A few, but very few taxis have a bottle of hand sanitizer in the back for passengers to use while every now and then we get a driver who sprays the back area with alcohol.

But what I mean by getting worse is their methods of giving the fee amount. A couple years ago there were many complaints written in articles and blogs about taxi drivers in Bogota over charging, and the various tricks they used to get more money from you. From our experience of keeping track of how many taxis we took and how many tried to trick us we found that 85% of the drivers were honest. But during this pandemic the math from our experiences shows an increase in dishonest drivers from 15% to 35%. Various methods are used to try and cheat the passenger. One of the biggest ways for them to gain more pesos is to not have the meter show you the price and just make up an amount in their head. Another method is that they round everything up to the next one thousand pesos. While there should be chart in the back for you to check the prices, many taxis hide them or make them difficult to consult. Then there is the trick of made-up added service fees such as it being a Saturday or they picked you up in the middle of the street.

We have noticed some of the honest taxi drivers fighting back with signs reminding passengers of the rules that taxi drivers must follow. But we have neither seen nor heard of any action taken by the government to protect passengers.

THE HAND IS STILL UNDER REPAIR - Some readers have inquired about the status of my hand. In a previous newsletter I wrote about the many hours in surgery after a serious accident with three of my fingers. It has now been over six months and the digits are looking better. The hand is at about 30% of capability with physical therapy appointments continuing. Thank you everyone for your concern.

STAY SAFE OUT THERE - The Covid-19 virus is still wreaking havoc in almost every country in the world. We appreciate all of our readers. So, keep yourself safe and keep reading.

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