Colombia’s COVID deaths reach new record high

(Image: Senator Juan Luis Castro)

Colombia’s health ministry on Wednesday reported 550 COVID-19 deaths, the highest number of daily fatalities since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

The most recent report on a record in daily fatalities came less than a week after the ministry reported a record number of people who were confirmed to be infected.

The latest surge is due to the surge of more infectious COVID-19 variants, mass anti-government protests, startup woes in a mass vaccination campaign and the lifting of mobility restrictions.

Confirmed COVID-19 infections and deaths

Hospitals overwhelmed

The government has continued to increase hospitals’ medium care and intensive care (ICU) capacity, particularly in the big cities, to deal with the elevated number of hospitalizations related to COVID-19.

At the beginning of the pandemic, Colombia’s hospitals had no more than 5,346 intensive care units, which has since been increased to 13,077, according to the Health Ministry.

Notwithstanding, local and regional healthcare systems are overwhelmed and have effectively collapsed in the capital Bogota and cities like Medellin, Cali and Barranquilla.

In Colombia it has long been forbidden to speak of the COLLAPSE of the health system. But this is the case in at least 10 large cities, not only in relation to ICU’s or COVID, but in everything.

Healthcare workers fund of Colombia

Also in remote and historically underdeveloped regions, hospitals are barely able to deal the high number of patients.

Cracks in National Vaccination Plan

National and regional healthcare systems have increasingly been able to apply vaccines as part of the national government’s National Vaccination Plan

This unprecedented mass vaccination campaign seeks to vaccinate 70% of Colombia’s 51 million people before the end of this year, but is likely to miss this target.

The rollout of the National Vaccination plan has only been able to vaccinate almost 10% of the targeted population since the first vaccine shots arrived on February 17 due to a number of problems.

Foreign pharmaceutical firms’ have failed to deliver vaccines when promised, the government has had trouble distributing the vaccines and private health intermediaries have had difficulty effectively locating their customers.

National Vaccination Plan rollout

Economic reactivation and national strikes

Despite the vaccination delays, the government has continued to lift mobility restrictions in an attempt to reactivate the economy.

Attempts to violently crack down on an April 28 national strike additionally triggered mass protests that forced the government to, among other things, withdraw a controversial healthcare reform.

The protests and uprisings have also contributed to the spreading of the coronavirus, are severely delaying the government’s economic reactivation plans and highlighted the failures in the vaccination campaign.

Medical organizations have become divided about the ongoing anti-government protests after the healthcare reform was withdrawn.

The Healthcare Workers Fund of Colombia said Wednesday that “no march, either for or against anything, should be authorized because of the manifest risk to public health during an out-of-control pandemic.”

The Colombian Federation of Medical Unions, however, expressed their support for the “just union struggles that seek the vindication of rights and the improvement of labor conditions.”

At the same time, the medical organizations are unanimous in their rejection of the government’s economic reactivation plans.

“We could be exceeding 800 daily deaths,” more than 100 medical organizations wrote the government earlier this week, claiming that the government’s economic policy ignores “the country’s epidemiological context.”

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