Colombia’s Health Ministry reported a record number of 588 daily COVID-19 deaths on Monday as medical organizations warned this number could rise to 800.
Coronavirus infections and deaths have been rising since mid-March and reached their highest levels since the beginning of the pandemic over the past week.
President Ivan Duque on Friday blamed ongoing protest against his increasingly tyrannical regime for the surge.
The president and his health minister previously claimed that the surge was due to the arrival or more infectious strains from countries like the United Kingdom, Brazil and South Africa.
Medical organizations have additionally claimed that efforts to reactivate the economy and delays in the government’s so-called National Vaccination Plan also contributed to the dramatic increase in registered cases and deaths.
COVID-19 deaths and infections
Hospitals on brink of collapse
The unprecedented number of infections and associated hospitalizations collapsed healthcare systems in all Colombia’s major cities.
Health Ministry statistics indicate that 20% of the country’s intensive care units (ICU’s) continued to be available, but also indicated that the availability of ICU’s in 14 of the country’s 32 provinces dropped below 10%.
This 90% saturation rate forced many governors to declare a red alert.
According to the Health Secretary of the capital Bogota, only 110 of the city’s 2,723 ICU’s were available on Monday.
In Medellin, Colombia’s second largest city, 1,019 of the 1,052 ICU’s designated for COVID-19 patient were full.
How many patients would be waiting for patients to either get better or die in order to be transferred to an ICU is unclear.
The Chamber for Industrial and Medicinal Gas told newspaper El Espectador that hospitals “are currently supplied with gas.”
The Bogota Medical College (CMB), however, reported a “collapse of the hospital network, shortage of oxygen and supplies, a human talent crisis and a risk to the sustainability of the healthcare system” last week already.
The Alliance for Health and Life, a collective of more than 150 healthcare organizations and experts, said Monday that its call to implement “a change in the national strategy” to confront the the pandemic “received no response” from the national government.
The president last week falsely claimed that “we have surpassed the vaccination of 12 million” people as part of the government’s National Vaccination Plan.
According to the Health Ministry, a little more than 3.8 million people have been vaccinated of the past four months. This is 7% of Colombia’s 51 million inhabitants.
Health Minister Fernando Ruiz on Saturday said that “this weekend” there would be an “intensification in vaccination,” which was also debunked by his ministry’s statistics.
The National Vaccination Plan was meant to vaccinate almost 36 million people before the end of the year, but has been bogged down by all kinds of problems since the beginning.
Rollout National Vaccination Plan
Duque made his false vaccination claim to promote his “safe reactivation” of Colombia’s economy despite the current outbreak and vaccination woes.
The president’s plans to further lift restrictions that were put in place to prevent mass contagion have been fiercely opposed by the medical community, however.
“Right now is the least appropriate time to begin an economic reactivation,” the Colombian Association of Scientific Societies said Sunday.
The director of the CMB, Herman Bayona, warned last week that the number of daily COVID-19 deaths could increase to 800 in the coming weeks if more municipal healthcare systems collapse.
This leaves us in a very critical situation because, in an infection elevation such as the one we have, there will not only be a negative impact on public health, but also on the country’s economy.
Bogota Medical College director Herman Bayona
Colombia’s largest corporations, their business association and their powerful lobbyists have constantly pressured Duque to lift restrictions despite everything.
Ironically, the country’s 1000 largest companies were able to increased their capital by 0.6% last year despite a 7.6% drop in income, according to the Superintendent of Societies, Juan Pablo Lievano.
The impact of Colombia’s largest economic collapse in history was mainly absorbed by small businesses, the sector that saw more than half a million companies disappear.