Friday marked the worst day for coronavirus infection in the Colombian capital since the outbreak of the pandemic, with 8,445 cases registered by the National Institute of Health.
The record levels of infection for Bogotá were released hours before this city of nine million inhabitants is placed under a 56-hour lockdown and ICU occupancy in the district’s private and public hospital system reached 92%.
The surge in new cases comes at a moment in which another highly-infectious strain of COVID-19 is circulating in the Brazilian Amazon and forced the UK government to ban all non-resident arrivals from South American nations, as well as suspend the only direct flights from Brazil and Argentina. Without scientific data available to prove that both the Brazilian and UK variants could be circulating in Bogotá, the connectivity between Manaus, capital of Brazil’s Amazonas state and Leticia, departmental capital of the Colombian Amazonas, has national health authorities on high alert, even as all land and water borders remain closed until March 1 under the National Health Emergency.
Even though Bogotá Mayor Claudia López raised the possibility – during a press conference to announce new restrictions – that the UK variant could be the cause of new infections, this affirmation was met with sharp criticism from the national government of President Iván Duque and denied by the INS’s director Martha Ospina.
The worrisome new record for Bogotá comes as Colombia also registered 21,078 additional cases and the highest per-day increase since March 6, 2020, when the first case was imported from Italy to the country. Having surpassed the 20,000 threshold, combined with fears of the collapsing public health situation in the Brazilian Amazon, President Duque may be forced within days to decree another nationwide quarantine.
Health officials in the coastal cities of Cartagena and Barranquilla confirmed that they have begun receiving critical coronavirus patients from overcrowded Bogotá hospitals in an act of solidarity with the capital.
The high levels of infection for Bogotá – and Colombia – come on the day the global death toll from the virus reached 2 million.