Covid-19 surge puts damper on New Year’s revelry in Bolivia

La Paz, Dec 29 (EFE).- Officials in three Bolivian cities said Wednesday that they were withdrawing permits for New Year’s parties as new Covid-19 cases approach 5,000 a day, the highest since the pandemic began.

The announcements came from the administrations in La Paz, neighboring El Alto – Bolivia’s largest city by population – and Cochabamba, capital of the likenamed region in the central part of the country.

“We have decided that life is first, then parties,” La Paz Mayor Ivan Arias said.

While the capital leads Bolivia’s cities in the rate of vaccination, the 42,000 visitors already in La Paz for the holidays and the roughly 7,000 who continue to arrive every day “are not necessarily vaccinated,” he said.

Intensive care units in the city’s hospitals are currently at 80 percent of capacity, Arias said.

In Cochabamba, Mayor Manfred Reyes Villa said that public parties were canceled and urged people gathering with extended family to take precautions.

Municipal Health Secretary Anibal Cruz said his department was working to expedite rapid Covid-19 testing and deploy vaccination teams.

El Alto Mayor Eva Copa warned operators of bars and discotheques in her city that they will face sanctions if they don’t heed the ban on New Year’s Eve parties.

The regional governments in Santa Cruz, the area of Bolivia hit hardest by Covid-19, and Tarija prohibited public New Year’s celebrations two weeks ago.

Bolivia has suffered 19,622 deaths from Covid-19 over the course of the pandemic that began in March 2020, while the number of confirmed cases is approaching 586,000.

The Health Ministry says 9.6 million vaccine doses have been administered in the Andean nation of 11.9 million people. That total includes second and third doses as well as boosters.

Beginning Jan. 1, Bolivians will need to present vaccination cards to enter indoor public spaces. EFE ysm/dr

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