Colombian President Ivan Duque has announced that coronavirus-related curfews will be extended in a number of cities around the country, as intensive care unit admissions have risen due to a spike in infections.
Duque said on Sunday, in remarks posted on social media, that the restrictions will differ depending on ICU occupancy rates.
The curfews will be in effect from Monday and will last until April 19, he said.
“It’s clear that … some municipalities have shown increases in recent weeks and there also exists the risk of a new national increase in the coming weeks,” Duque said. “We must act, prevent and take appropriate decisions.”
Colombia had previously warned citizens not to relax their guard over the Easter holiday and imposed weekend curfews.
According to a Johns Hopkins University tally, the country has recorded more than 2.4 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 63,900 deaths – and it is one of many in Latin America experiencing an outbreak.
Curfews will be in effect from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. local time in Colombian cities with an ICU occupancy of more than 85 percent, and from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. local time in cities with an ICU occupancy of 80-85 percent.
Curfews will begin at 10 p.m. in cities with 70-79 percent occupancy, and will last until 5 a.m. in cities with 50-69 percent occupancy.
As of Saturday evening, the ICU occupancy rate in Bogota, the country’s capital, was 65.5 percent, while coastal cities like Barranquilla were about 90 percent.
Duque also stated that Bogota and a number of other Colombian cities were being monitored due to an increase in infections and deaths.
In recent weeks, many Latin American countries have seen an increase in COVID-19 infections, deaths, and hospitalizations, although several are still struggling to obtain vaccines to inoculate their populations.
Residents in Chile have expressed concern about the economic impact of yet another government-imposed lockout, which was recently implemented to combat rising cases.
As COVID-19 deaths reached a new high last month, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has faced intense criticism and rebuke. As younger patients get sicker with the virus, Brazilian hospitals are being forced to their limits.
On March 1, Colombia became the first country in the Americas to receive COVID-19 vaccines through the UN-backed COVAX program, receiving 117,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
The country’s inoculation program started in February, and about 2.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered so far.
Carissa Etienne, the head of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), said last week that the region’s biggest problem is obtaining vaccines.
“A large part of this is due to delays in production as manufacturers rush to scale up capacity. But we are also seeing far too many examples of vaccine nationalism, which limits global availability even further,” Etienne said during a news briefing on March 31.
“The current system is hard-wired for inequity and that is not acceptable. Vaccines should be available to all who need them, regardless of where they live.”
According to Etienne, 124 million people in the Americas had received at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot as of March 30, although more than 58 million had been entirely immunize.