Monday marks a tragic milestone for Colombia and the fight against coronavirus: 100,582 victims of the disease, including the day’s 648 fatalities and grim single day record.
Almost sixteen months after the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in the country (March 6, 2020), few could have imagined the numbers in fatalities surpassing six digits, and per-day deaths near 600. The daily mortality rate has almost doubled with the third wave of COVID-19 infection and exacerbated as of late April with anti-government protests.
After one of the world’s longest lockdowns – 167 days – before restrictions were eased back in August 2020, Bogotá remains at the epicenter of the pandemic, adding some 11,000 new cases every day in June, compared to 400 cases, during the same time frame last year. The dramatic surge in new cases and deaths has been accompanied by the economic reactivation of every commercial sector and the lifting of night curfews and the identity-card measure Pico y cédula.
The gradual return of trade shows and congresses, as well as reopening of bars and gastro bars with biosecurity protocols was justified by Mayor Claudia López based on the serious impact the pandemic has had on households and businesses. “It sounds absolutely contradictory, from an epidemiological point of view, to have 97% occupation of Intensive Care Units and to announce a reopening,” stated López on June 7. “From a social, economic and political context, with deep institutional mistrust, unacceptable poverty and unemployment that is especially affecting women and young people, it is necessary to reopen,” she said. Concerts and in-person sporting events remain excluded from the reopening.
Despite ICU occupation in Bogotá leveling-off at 97% during the weekend – or 58 beds available from a total of 2,261 – on Saturday, in yet another defiant move, the National Strike Committee was promoting an outdoor concert at the National Park for the following day. The concert with the folk-rock duo Los Aterciopelados was deauthorized at the eleventh hour after journalists informed the district’s Government Secretariat of the planned event.
The disconnect between Mayor Claudia López and pro-strike events that headline artists who – in their own right – should be held accountable for propagating contagion among audiences, is also an affront to the great majority of Bogotá’s eight million residents who respect health measures and the district’s last remaining restrictions.
Colombia’s 100,582 victims of COVID-19 comes days after Brazil registered 500,000 victims among its population of 214 million compared to 50 million, and which shows that South America continues to be among the most impacted continents with high mortality rates. Surpassed by Peru with 192,202 deaths and close to Argentina’s 89,043, the third wave of infections and deaths in Colombia will continue for at least another month, affirmed the Ministry of Health, as a result of the demonstrations, riots and road blockades of the national strike.
President Iván Duque, during a small religious ceremony inside Casa de Nariño to commemorate the victims of COVID-19, remarked that “more than 10,000 deaths from COVID-19 could have been prevented if the country hadn’t witnessed agglomerations during the last six to seven weeks,” and statement directed at the National Strike Committee.
The “most lethal wave of the health emergency,” according to the Ministry of Health comes as the country continues its vaccine roll-out with 15 million doses administered, of which 4.6 million have been allocated for second doses. On Sunday, the country broke a new record with 317,532 doses given to persons age 45 or older.
The news on Monday that Colombia topped 100,000 victims was accompanied by 23,239 additional cases of infection, raising the national total to almost 4 million.