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Colombia sees record COVID deaths as cases surge

Doctors forced to pick which patients to prioritize for treatment amid slow vaccination rollout

Laura Gamba   | 27.04.2021
Colombia sees record COVID deaths as cases surge Intensive care unit at Tunal Hospital, in Bogota, Colombia ( Juancho Torres - Anadolu Agency )

BOGOTA, Colombia 

Colombia has seen a surge in coronavirus cases over the last few days, while deaths from COVID-19 have also reached an all-time high in the past week, with more than 400 people dying each day from the virus.  

New coronavirus cases and variants have driven hospitals to the brink of collapse in cities like the capital Bogota and Medellin, where doctors have been forced to make life-and-death decisions about who is getting the last available ICU units. 

Bogota is under red alert after health authorities reported that more than 90% of the city’s intensive care units were full, which has prompted mayor Claudia Lopez to introduce new restrictions, including strict lockdowns, curfews, liquor bans and measures that restrict mobility. Efforts to reopen schools have also been suspended. 

Ahead of a national strike planned for Wednesday, Lopez also banned mass gatherings. 

With a population of over 51 million, Colombia has Latin America's third-highest coronavirus death toll after Brazil and Mexico. Colombia has registered nearly 2.8 million coronavirus infections and more than 71,000 deaths, according to a running tally by US-based Johns Hopkins University. 

Since its vaccination rollout began in mid-February, Colombia has fully vaccinated less than 1.5 million people compared with over 6 million in Chile. At the current rate of vaccination, Colombia will not be able to reach its aim of inoculating 35 million people by the end of the year. 

Regional leaders including Argentine President Alberto Fernandez and Colombian head of state Ivan Duque pushed for more vaccines at the Ibero-American Summit last week, to which Spain promised to donate 7.5 million vaccines to Latin America. 

Along with vaccine supply shortages, experts say economic recovery prospects are still a long way off in the region.

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