Bolivia to analyze lifting Covid measures, despite Kraken variant

By Gabriel Romano

La Paz, May 10 (EFE).- Bolivian Health Minister Jeyson Auza reviewed the last three years of the coronavirus pandemic in his country and told EFE that before the government suspends the pandemic health emergency authorities will analyze the health situation amid the spread of the new Kraken variant and the winter flu season the country is experiencing.

The minister said that despite the World Health Organization’s decision to declare the international Covid emergency at an end, Bolivia will keep the biosecurity measures in place “for a little longer,” including the obligatory use of facemasks in closed spaces, until the winter disease season is over.

“(If) the winter period ends and we’re continuing to have the same (favorable) indicators, we can say with full security that we’ve gotten to a new normal and that no extreme measures are needed,” he said.

In addition, he said that the new Kraken coronavirus variant has been detected in the provinces of La Paz and Cochabamba and thus “genomic vigilance” will be maintained.

Bolivia faced the sixth wave of infections last December but after that registered a sustained decrease in the numbers of Covid cases, despite slight occasional upward blips.

Auza said that to deal with the transition process from an epidemic disease to an endemic one, the decision was made to “move up” flu vaccinations starting in March to inoculate about two million of the most vulnerable members of society.

He emphasized that starting when Luis Arce became president in November 2020, before the second wave hit, Bolivia’s change in its strategy to contain the pandemic has been based on “active epidemiological vigilance” instead of lockdowns.

The government’s decision to “rule out” the possibility of quarantines “has been the most appropriate,” given that it has allowed for “controlled exposure to the virus,” Auza said.

When the first Covid cases were detected in March 2020, then-interim President Jeanine Añez initially implemented a “rigid quarantine” for several months and then made it more flexible, while health efforts focused on providing hospital care for those suffering from serious cases.

However, Auza said that in late 2022 it was decided to strengthen anti-coronavirus measures at the most basic health centers to prevent Covid-19 patients from needing oxygen or hospitalization.

In addition, he emphasized the decline in the lethality index from 6.2 percent during the first Covid wave in July-August 2020 to the 2.7 percent experienced during the second wave in early 2021, when vaccines still had not arrived, and then to the 0.1 percent lethality level in the sixth wave now that immunization is widespread.

Auza emphasized that Bolivia, during “all waves” of the pandemic, had an average lethality index of 1.9 percent putting the country in the lowest group of nations in South America.

He also said that the mortality index and infection rate were among the “lowest” with 186 deaths and 9,972 cases per 100,000 people, respectively.

Since the vaccine began to be available in late January 2021, a total of 15,914,382 doses have been administered – if one counts first, second and third doses, along with unique components and the annual vaccine for all those over 5 years of age – among a vaccine-eligible population of more than 10.2 million.

Auza defended the requirement for people to have a vaccination card in early 2022, although it was only valid for a few days, calling it “pertinent” since it served to raise vaccination levels and helped the country achieve “herd immunity.”

More than three years after the arrival of the pandemic in Bolivia, the minister said that in Bolivia “We know the disease” and “we have the mechanisms to control it” even given the difficulties inherent in the country’s healthcare system.

Since March 2020, Bolivia has suffered 22,382 Covid deaths and 1,197,788 confirmed cases.



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