As Colombia has witnessed during the last two weeks, the third wave of coronavirus contagion is highly infectious and alarming given that daily cases have surpassed – or are perilously close to – the peaks of the two previous waves. On Sunday, the country confirmed 17,483 additional cases after processing 68,067 PCR tests.
The day’s numbers are lower than 21,078 confirmed on January 15, 2021, with the second peak, yet significantly higher than 13,056 on August 19, 2020 with the initial peak of the pandemic. Equally worrisome of the spike in new infections are projections by health authorities that the third wave could peak at the end of April, timeline that is still – at least – two weeks away. Another important issue of concern is the fact that when the initial wave peaked, the country had endured more than four months of a strict lockdown that began easing with the national government’s decreed reactivation of economic sectors. In January, a series of the three-day quarantines and evening curfews in Bogotá managed to decelerate the spread of the virus, free up ICU occupation and put the capital back in Yellow Alert.
The question that must be asked is “what are the contingency plans at local and national levels to avoid daily cases reaching 25,000 or higher?” For President Iván Duque and Bogotá Mayor Claudia López a prolongation of strict quarantine in the Colombian capital appears almost inevitable, especially if within the next two to three days, per-day infections of COVID-19 surpass those of the second peak. According to the National Institute of Health (INS), the nationwide positivity rate is 25% – or 25 confirmed positive cases of 100 PCR tests processed.
As Bogotá ends a three-day lockdown on Tuesday at 4:00 am, and additional measure Pico y cédula in effect until April 19, the district’s Government Secretariat Luis Ernesto Gómez confirmed that over the weekend police handed-out 1,795 fines to persons violating the stay-at-home order. The police also raided 7 clandestine parties and a cockfighting competition with more than 50 spectators in the locality of Bosa. Other residents were fined for consuming alcohol in local stores and driving their cars without the obligatory exemption.
On Monday, Mayor López denounced large crowds inside the mass transportation system TransMilenio blaming the situation on “companies that oblige workers to go to work, putting their health and that of the city at risk.” And despite Bogotá registering ICU occupation at 72%, below those of Medellín (95%) and Barranquilla (85%) – two other capitals also in quarantine – a return Tuesday to “normal” activity for the capital’s eight million residents could prove disastrous for already overwhelmed hospitals and their healthcare professionals.
The district administration also intensified during the weekend free PCR testing at 178 locations across Bogotá, as well as mass vaccination campaigns for all persons age 70 or over, as well as third-line health workers. The city’s first drive-thru vaccine clinic was inaugurated Saturday at the parking grounds of Bima mall on AutoNorte. Bogotá has administered almost 600,000 doses of the Pfizer and Sinovac vaccines, while the Colombian total – as of Monday – is 3,090.671. The Ministry of Health also issued an alert for all citizens to take extra precautions with COVID-19 infection given heavy seasonal rainfall and the fast spread of other respiratory illnesses, including the common cold.