Daily coronavirus cases in Colombia have started to decline steadily since the third wave of infections peaked June 26 with a record 33,594 cases, and also the worst day for fatalities with 693 additional victims since the outbreak of the virus on March 6, 2020. With health authorities confirming a deceleration in new cases, with 11,244 on Wednesday (number close to 10,190 reported on April 5), the downturn also coincides with a decision by the Ministry of Health to eliminate the age requirement as of August for all persons wanting to receive a coronavirus vaccine.

Given a fast-track vaccine roll-out that launched back in February, the national government now aims to unify all the stages to reach the target of herd immunity before the end of this year – or equivalent to inoculating 70% of the country’s 50 million population. With the lifting of age and all preexisting medical conditions for persons age 35 or younger, the Ministry of Health also completes 25 million doses administered in July. On Wednesday, the country received an additional shipment of 308,880 doses from Pfizer, raising the total number that have distributed among five pharmaceuticals to 30 million – of which 24 million have been given to persons age 40 or over.

The announcement that the national vaccination campaign will soon reach every person in the country, comes just days after President Iván Duque defended his administration’s pandemic response during his address to lawmakers for the opening plenary of the 2021-2022 Congress. In a speech that commemorated 115,000 Colombians who lost their lives in the pandemic, and among 4 million victims worldwide, President Duque reminded both his political allies and adversaries that “nobody has escaped the pain of losing a loved one, and we have all had to make decisions in the midst of uncertainty.”

President Duque also highlighted that before vaccines became available, during the initial stages of the pandemic Intensive Care Units more than doubled from an existing 5,400 to current 12,000. “We went from one laboratory that could process 1,000 tests per day, to more than 166 labs with the capacity to process more than 100,000 tests daily,” he added before thanking the nation’ s healthcare workers. “When we work for the same goal, we are capable of doing great things,” emphasized President Duque.

The President’s equivalent of a State of the Union followed a photo opportunity where several left-wing representatives posed next to an inverted Colombian flag in support of so-called “first line” defenders. These first lines have systematically attacked security forces with machetes, firebombs and improvised IED, as well as vandalized ambulances during medical missions. Members of a first line in the locality of Kennedy recently extended a metal cable across one of Bogotá’s busiest avenues – Las Américas – resulting in the decapitation of a motorcyclist.

Among the lawmakers who joined the pantomime inside the Chamber was Gustavo Bolívar, responsible for a crowdfunding campaign that raised COP$100 million (US$30,000) to purchase protective gear (googles and hard hats) for first lines. For the vast majority of Colombians first lines have become synonymous with vandalism and what Minister of Defense Diego Molano calls a “low intensity urban terror campaign.” The National Police claims more than 600 members of the force have injured since the first lines were established to defend encampments and road blockades. Blockades that have resulted in several infant deaths after ambulances were not allowed to reach hospitals in clear violation of international humanitarian laws.

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