Colombia’s COVID-19 fourth wave eludes as world faces Omicron

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ANDY RAIN/EPA/EFE

International borders are shuttering-up. Enforced mandatory PCR testing is back with a vengeance. Near-lockdown restrictions are being reintroduced by many governments to halt the spread of Omicron, the latest coronavirus variant discovered by researchers in South Africa.

As countries begin to tally their first cases of Omicron, new daily cases of the disease are sweeping across Europe, led to a large degree, by the predominant Delta variant. Omicron now threatens to shorten the gap between fourth and fifth waves of infections. In the words of the WHO’s Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, during an extraordinary session of the organization in Geneva, “Covid-19 is not done with us.”

With a global community on edge over a variant that could defy vaccine immunity, Colombia has yet to report a first case of Omicron, and at a time in which the country has swung open its doors to the outside world. As one of the countries in South America worst hit with the third wave of the pandemic, and which devastated the continent in terms of infections and deaths, Colombia appears to have skewed a fourth wave, with daily cases averaging near 2,400 during most of November. On Tuesday, Colombia’s COVID-19 count dropped below 2,000 cases, and a modest deceleration from the month’s recorded high of 2,649 on November 21. Colombia’s total case count stands at 5,067.348 and death toll at 128,473. Active cases have plateaued in the 13,000 range.

The worst day for coronavirus infection since the outbreak on March 6, 2020, was June 26 of this year with 33,594 cases – number similar to those confirmed in France during the last 24 hours.

Even though the MU variant (labelled the “Colombia variant” by many news outlets after it was first identified here) continues to circulate among the population, its impact has waned, and original fears that it was vaccine resistant have been proven false by scientific experts.

To mitigate and delay the fourth wave in COVID-19 infections, Colombia’s first line of defense has been to extend the vaccine roll-out to all persons age 3 or over, as well as authorize booster shots to the adult population. Minister of Health Fernando Ruíz has also extended the National Health Emergency to February 28, 2022, and that includes obligatory mask wearing for everyone, including the fully vaccinated. On Monday, Colombia surpassed 56 million doses administered of coronavirus vaccines and 24.4 million residents have completed their inoculation schemes.

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