The capital, Bogota, is facing a “hospital collapse” and infections will not drop until the end of May, the mayor said.
Colombia’s three largest cities are bracing for a third prolonged peak in coronavirus cases and overcrowded intensive care units after nearly two weeks of anti-government protests, said local authorities.
Protests fueled by outrage during a now canceled tax plan started on April 28. requests have spread to include a basic income, an end to police violence and the withdrawal of the long-debated health reform.
The marches are expected to continue for the foreseeable future, with protest leaders and the government at odds despite an initial meeting to discuss the demands.
The first meeting between Colombians president Ivan Duque and the National Strike Committee ended Monday without an agreement between the parties.
Violence during some demonstrations left 26 dead, including a police officer, and more than 800 injured, according to government figures. Human rights organizations, which have denounced numerous police abuses during the protests, say the death toll is higher.
Meanwhile, the capital Bogota is facing a “hospital collapse,” Mayor Claudia Lopez said at a press conference on Monday, and will not see infections drop this week as previously planned.
“The care pact that protected us from contagion for 16 months is what was broken in Colombia two weeks ago,” Lopez said. “Every day it is broken, we are at risk of mass death. To be 96% busy in intensive care is to be on the verge of hospital collapse.
A decrease in infections won’t come until the end of May, Lopez said, adding that the protests make quarantine restrictions almost unenforceable, despite extending a curfew and restrictions on alcohol sales. .
Medellin, whose intensive care units have been at or near full capacity for weeks, is bracing for a possible crisis, Health Secretary Andree Uribe told Reuters in a video.
“We know there will be an increase in cases, we are on alert, we are carrying out early identification actions, such as testing all those who have participated in the marches,” she said.
In Cali – a focal point of the protest – the protests are expected to extend a current peak, Health Secretary Miyerlandi Torres said.
“We are concerned about walkers who do not follow any of the self-protection protocols such as physical distance and the use of face masks,” she said.
“And with the presence of strains like the British one, which are very contagious, it is indicated that the numbers will not drop in the short term.”
The ICUs in Cali are about 95% occupied, according to local government figures.