Respiratory illnesses and COVID-19 cases rise across Colombia

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Carlos Ortega/EFE

The heavy rainfall that has affected Colombia over the last several months, combined with colder than usual temperatures in the interior of the country present a worrisome public health situation for the country with the onset December’s holiday season.

According to the National Health Institute’s most recent bulletin, 2,112 new cases of COVID-19 were documented during the week of November 18 to 24, an increase of 67 percent over the previous week’s 1,298 cases.  The INS called on citizens to reinforce self-protection measures, such as wearing a face mask and avoid crowded spaces. The warning also comes given the circulation in the country of two omicron subvariants BQ.1 and BQ1.1 and which have begun to displace BA.5.  as the dominant variant. These subvariants could lead a fifth wave in infections over the new year.

“Since the last week of October, when the circulation in the country of this new lineage of COVID-19 was detected, and until the delivery of the last report dated November 6, BQ.1 represents a little more than a third of all new infections (34.6%) in the country,” highlighted the INS. The most critical situation for hospitalizations is expected during the first week of December, with the increase in the numbers of people affected by respiratory viruses, among them adenovirus, rhinovirus, type A influenza, and type B influenza.

Colombia has been averaging less than 1,000 cases per week of COVID-19 since mid-August.  At the start of 2022, on January 21, the country registered more than 31,000 cases, and peak of the fourth wave. The country’s total number of case count stands at 6,321.657 since the first case of the virus was confirmed in Bogotá on March 8, 2020. The death toll from coronavirus is 141,881. The country has also administered close to 90 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, with 74.5% of residents having completed their vaccination schemes.

The new government of President Gustavo Petro with Minister Carolina Corcho in charge of  the Health portfolio has purchased an additional 3.7 million vaccines for the BA.4/5 omicron variants and which will be delivered during the first trimester of 2023. The director of promotion and prevention of the Ministry, Johanna Barbosa, also confirmed that the government plans on purchasing an additional 5 million vaccines next year.

The heavy rains and electrical storms battering Colombia are expected to last during the holiday season, and until at least March 2023, stated the country’s Disaster and Risk Management Agency – UNGRD. More than 200 persons have died and an estimated 440,000 displaced as a result of the harsh winter season.