Colombia to require face masks for “important time”

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EFE/ Lenin Nolly

Colombia’s Minister of Health and Social Protection, Fernando Ruíz, put an end to rumors that the national government could relax the face mask mandate, stating that “for an important time”, wearing a face mask will remain obligatory both outdoors and in closed spaces. “Colombia is behind many European countries regarding the impact of COVID-19,” he said, and as a result, the country “will only reach a minimum level of new cases by the third week of March.” Ruíz went on to emphasize that even if coronavirus becomes endemic, “that does not imply that there are no peaks.”

The country’s Epidemiological Committee will study in upcoming weeks the possibility of easing face mask restrictions outdoors, but in his words, this “depends on the uncertainty of new variants appearing in the world.”  Colombia enforced the obligatory use of face masks in all spaces with the declaration of the National Health Emergency on March 23, 2020. “The key issue is that there are still countries in Africa and Asia, that do not have greater than 40% vaccination coverage, which represents a risk of new strains surfacing in these regions” he said.

Despite a sharp decline in daily cases, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19, since the fourth wave peaked on January 15 with more than 33,000 additional cases, Colombia’s 4,142 cases on Wednesday is significantly lower than France’s 92,345, Italy’s 57,890 or UK’s 51,899 –  countries that have lifted most COVID-19 restrictions, including the wearing of face masks outdoors.

On Thursday, active dropped to 23,445 including the day’s additional 4.013 infections. The Ministry of Health confirmed 147 deaths, lowest number since the start of the Omicron surge. Colombia’s total case count stands at 6,035.143 and death toll at 137,733.