Colombia closing out 2021 on verge of 4th Covid wave

Bogota, Dec 30 (EFE).- Colombia is closing out 2021 with a fourth wave of Covid-19 beginning to surge, a phenomenon that is in evidence with the increase in infections due to the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus while deaths are remaining stable thanks to progress made in the vaccination program.

The country on Wednesday registered 6,326 newly detected positive cases of Covid, the largest figure since the 6,980 new cases detected on Aug. 6, 2020, and health authorities forecast that this daily number will continue to increase, and this is why a series of measures will be implemented and recommendations made to deal with the situation.

However, the yearend celebrations will continue around the country and the best example of this is the traditional Cali Fair, which began on Dec. 25 and will end this Thursday after featuring hugely-attended concerts and other events.

In addition to Cali, according to Health Minister Fernando Ruiz, Bogota and Medellin are already having a spike in Covid cases and he called upon the public to “be very responsible” during yearend festivities.

Colombians recall the sad situation surrounding the third peak of the pandemic between April and July 2020, which hit the country hard, resulting in more than 32,000 daily infections and 750 daily deaths.

Despite the fact that the situation in Colombia remains relatively stable, the Health Ministry’s director of epidemiology and demographics, Julian Fernandez, warned that there are indications that the country should prepare for an increase in infections.

“All the evidence suggests an abrupt spike in cases which could create congestion in healthcare services and affect healthcare personnel. This increase will have little impact in terms of mortality and hospitalization, but it cannot be minimized given the economic and social impact (or the impact) on healthcare services that could occur,” Fernandez said.

The daily death toll from Covid has remained rather stable in recent weeks, and on Wednesday 35 deaths were registered among coronavirus patients.

Fernandez said that the best tool the country has to deal with the new wave is the National Vaccination Plan, the objective of which is “to reduce specific mortality and the incidence of serious cases.”

“The vaccines are preserving their main reason for being, which it to protect against complications. In that regard, although the fact is that we’re going to have infections among the vaccinated, the majority of these infections will be minor and asymptomatic, showing that the vaccines are working,” he emphasized.

According to the Health Ministry, on Tuesday 225,743 vaccine doses were administered, of which 101,011 were second doses and 12,014 were of the single-dose Janssen vaccine.

Including those figures, Colombia has administered 64.2 million vaccine doses and 28.1 million people (56.2 percent of the population) have been fully immunized, while 3,158,642 people have already received a booster shot.

The government of Valle del Cauca province, of which Cali is the capital, issued a hospital red alert starting on Thursday and lasting until Jan. 15 as a preventive measure for two reasons.

“The first (reason) is the yearend celebrations, which in our culture also have fights, injuries, accidents and people getting burned, sadly. In addition, because as a hospital network … we have to go on maximum alert due to the increase in Covid cases,” the health secretary for Valle del Cauca, Cristina Lesmes, said.

Nevertheless, the Cali Fair has been held without any major incidents and the only thing affecting its normal functioning has been the detection of positive Covid cases on the teams of musical performers such as Rauw Alejandro, El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico, Silvestre Dangond and Rey Ruiz, who had to cancel their concerts.

Although it is not certain what’s going to happen during this new virus peak, the Health Ministry emphasized that Colombia has a high level of protection thanks to its vaccination program and hybrid immunity, which exists due to the large number of people who have been infected but survived and also to the anti-Covid vaccines.

“Thus, the call to the people is to moderate (gathering in) big crowds, use facemasks and – most especially – to get booster shots,” the ministry said.

EFE jga/joc/dmt/bp

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