Tuesday, June 15

Coronavirus: Colombia reopens its economy at its worst moment of the pandemic | International


A worker at the La Samaritana hospital in Bogotá fills out a form with the data of a person who died from covid-19 in the morgue of that medical center.
A worker at the La Samaritana hospital in Bogotá fills out a form with the data of a person who died from covid-19 in the morgue of that medical center.Ivan Valencia / AP

Bogotá, Medellín and Cali, three of the most important cities in Colombia, are experiencing the most critical moment of the coronavirus pandemic. Intensive care units are on the brink of collapse; The country reports more than 500 deaths a day for more than a week, a record number of contagion cases, with 28,624 this Thursday, and there are waiting lines at the crematoriums. The country has exceeded 90,353 deaths. Paradoxically, both the Government of Iván Duque, as well as the local governments, have announced the economic reactivation of different productive sectors, the presence in schools, among other measures that prioritize employment, which has deteriorated after a year and a half of the pandemic. While other countries have been confined during their peaks, Colombia is opening up.

The case of the Colombian capital is serious. The city has an occupation of 97.3% and only 61 beds available for intensive care, according to Saludata, the Bogotá Mayor’s Office Health Observatory. And although the authorities do not speak of collapse, it is increasingly difficult to locate a place to care for critically ill patients in the city. In social networks, some people make desperate calls to get space in one of them. Hospitals say that of the 70 or 75 daily requests from patients, they can only receive 5 or 6 patients.

The city is on red alert. “We have insisted to all citizens and all families, together with people who are seriously ill, that if they make the offer from their Health Promotion Companies (EPS) so that the patient can be transferred to another city, please accept it . It is an important and safe measure, since since May we have transferred 54 patients, ”said the Secretary of Health of Bogotá, Alejandro Gómez. Despite this, he assures that the network has not collapsed because there is a “dynamic system of rotation in the ICU”. Every day about 300 patients leave intensive care and 170 are admitted.

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The marches and protests against the government of Iván Duque have led to events of super contagion, according to the mayor of Bogotá, Claudia López. “We could stay at home in strict quarantine throughout the city, but the contagion has already occurred. With or without opening, we will have two three weeks with high occupancy ”, justified the president, who assured that in July the number of deaths will increase: if citizens take care, it could be 140 deaths a day; but if this does not happen, there could be “a brutal peak of 200 deaths per day in the city.” The opening in Bogotá does not include concerts, discos, or football.

In Medellín, ICUs are also over 98% and occupancy has been increasing for three weeks. That is why the measure of the mayor of Medellín, Daniel Quintero, to gradually dismantle the city’s ICUs, has also surprised. “We are going to de-escalate because this has a very high cost for hospitals and to the extent that we have fewer patients we will go down,” he said. Currently only 25 intensive care beds remain and, as in the capital, a reactivation and total opening of economic activities has been announced. In this city they do watch football matches and concerts.

They will no longer require PCR from travelers

The reopening of these cities coincides with the decision of the Government of Iván Duque to reactivate all the productive sectors and is related to the social outbreak that has shaken the country in the last month. The Ministry of Health announced that cities with ICU occupancy below 85% will be allowed a 25% capacity for public and sporting events. “People do not understand why, if we are at such a high peak, we issue a resolution that reopens the economic and productive sectors and modifies all the old protocols,” said Gerson Bermont, director of Promotion and Prevention of the Ministry. According to the official, the focus is no longer the control or mitigation of the virus but the preparation for “the reunion” and opening to activities that were so restricted.

Vaccination is another of the reasons that the Executive uses to move towards the reopening. The country came with a slow vaccination, but in recent days 300,000 daily doses are being applied on average. The Government trusts that this process will accelerate and by the end of June it will have put 17 million doses. “We cannot stay at the peak. We already have the capacity of beds, the diagnostic capacity and an additional condition, the vaccination plan. This allows us to look forward. We hope that in two weeks the occupancy of beds will begin to decrease, ”said Bermont. The children will return to schools from July 15, while the vaccination of teachers progresses.

The measures announced by the Ministry, which include the non-requirement of the PCR test for travelers traveling to Colombia, have caused controversy. The Minister of Health, Fernando Ruiz, has had to explain that it is a gradual reactivation. “This reactivation does not imply an immediate opening, but it is necessary to start considering how the country will work once we get down from this third peak in which we find ourselves,” said Ruiz.

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