Colombia Becomes the New Covid-19 Epicenter in Latin America

Colombia is the new epicenter of the pandemic in Latin America with a high rate of infections that has already reached 10,000 daily, a situation that led the government to extend the quarantine for another month, a measure received with skepticism by experts given the numerous exceptions in force.

The country, which has accumulated 267,385 infections, completes a month with daily figures of over 7,000 new cases, statistics focused mainly on Bogotá and Medellín, cities with unstoppable numbers despite the fact that local authorities have reinforced confinement.

The deaths, which have already exceeded 9,000, also continue to grow rapidly and border on 300 daily, with alarming records in regions such as Córdoba, a Caribbean department with 1.8 million inhabitants that on Tuesday had 59 deaths.

“In Colombia a very fast reopening was made. In Europe this was done after passing the peak and they did it gradually, but here we have not passed the peak and we have 43 economic sectors on the street,” the vice president of the Colombian Medical Federation, Carolina Corcho, told Efe, commenting on the figures.

Colombia had its worst day on Tuesday with 10,284 positive cases, a figure only exceeded in the world by demographic powers such as the United States, Brazil and India.

With this record, President Iván Duque ordered the mandatory quarantine in force from March 25 to August 31 to be extended, considering that the country has not had a “national peak” but several “peaks that are occurring subregionally.”

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The government’s strategy worries those who consider that with the 43 exceptions authorized since the end of April and the reopening of economic sectors such as manufacturing and non-essential services, quarantine is no longer an effective measure, and the figures seem to prove them right.

“In the decree we all have an exception to leave so in practice the quarantine does not exist. To say that it is going to be extended for a month when we are all exempted for some reason is not to quarantine,” said Corcho.

The relaxation of the quarantine, according to the expert, largely explains the growth of infections in places that had originally managed to control the speed of the pandemic.

“The measures have been insufficient, the necessary social investment was not made with resources that the State has and this suffocated people economically. Now it is very difficult for people to stay at home,” added the expert, who assures that the recommendations made by the Medical Federation were ignored by the government.

Another behavior that allows us to understand the situation in the country is that the health authorities went from processing around 1,500 samples per day to an average of 30,000 and it is already close to 1.5 million tests carried out.

Although this allows statistics to be more closely adjusted to reality, the challenges are still enormous in some regions due to delays of up to a month in the delivery of results, according to complaints from patients.

This not only implies that the reports released daily by the Ministry of Health are delayed, but also affects the timely implementation of epidemiological cordons.

“They trusted that the EPS (Health Provider Companies) would do their homework and it did not, as is being demonstrated to public opinion. If they don’t deliver the test results on time, much less are they going to do isolations, family quarantines and epidemiological cordons,” explained Corcho.

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On this, the superintendent of Health, Fabio Aristizábal, said on Tuesday that the entity has received more than 320,000 complaints against EPS and that 15 of them were ordered with precautionary measures for irregularities in care during the pandemic.

According to the Superintendency, which reported that the country had more than 30,000 backed up samples to the end of June, on average the EPS delivers the results in three days, although it found multiple cases in which it took up to 72 days.

“We warned that there had to be a control in the health system because this could not be left solely to the EPS. This was not done and we are barely noticing. Institutions don’t even do tests when people call,” Cork claimed.

Due to the high numbers in Bogotá, a city where 91,408 of the national infections are concentrated, the mayor of the capital intensified the quarantine staggered by neighborhoods three weeks ago and since Monday recommended a total confinement for those suffering from hypertension, diabetes and obesity.

Although the occupation of ICU beds remains above 90% in Bogotá, local authorities are confident that the health system will not collapse. However, the measures taken so far do not convince epidemiologists who asked the government to decree a general quarantine in the city most affected by the coronavirus.

“Since we don’t see the way to do a general quarantine, we again proposed local quarantines according to the city that is at the peak. Bogotá needed a general confinement to be able to pass the peak because our hospital system is very fragile and exhausted, but that was not accepted,” Corcho questioned.

In addition to the targeted quarantine, the mayor Claudia López ordered that the epidemiological maps of the positive cases be improved through the “Bogotá Caregiver” page on which patients must report their symptoms and the people with whom they have or had contact.

This strategy worked during the first months of the pandemic in Medellín, the capital of Antioquia, a city that opted for technology and Big Data through the “Medellín Me Cuida” platform. However, time has shown that the measure was not enough.

On June 1, Antioquia only had 1,171 cases and today it accumulates 27,226 infections, among them the governor in charge, Luis Fernando Suárez, and the mayor of Medellín, Daniel Quintero.

After more than four months in quarantine, Colombia is at the peak of the pandemic without a solid strategy as contagions accelerate and the country rises in statistics worldwide.

(Ultimas Noticias)

Translation: OT/JRE/EF