Colombia reached 100,000 confirmed deaths from COVID-19 this week, the 10th country in the world to overcome this grim barrier.

The South American nation, of 50 million inhabitants, has registered a growing number of daily infections since April, and in the last seven days had the third highest per capita death rate from coronavirus in the world, according to data published by the University of Oxford .

The country’s president, Iván Duque, blamed the anti-government protests that began in late April for many of the deaths, stating that “more than 10,000 deaths could have been prevented” if Colombians had not participated in rallies. crowded in the last seven weeks.

But epidemiologists in Colombia say it is too early to say what impact the protests had on the spike in deaths.

“The protests definitely played a role” in the broadcast, said Diego Rosselli, a professor of epidemiology at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá. “But at this point, giving a number on how many deaths they caused is mere speculation.”

More than 25,000 people have lost their lives to COVID-19 in Colombia since May 1, the equivalent of about a quarter of the deaths caused by the disease in the country since the first case was detected there in March of last year.

According to Rosselli, the most contagious variants of the virus may have contributed to the rapid acceleration of deaths, as happened in neighboring countries such as Argentina and Brazil.

Fatigue from sanitary measures such as the use of masks, crowded residential areas and the easing of restrictions on gatherings have also fueled infections in Colombia and other parts of South America. The region represents just 5% of the world’s population, but accounts for almost a quarter of all deaths from COVID-19.

In Colombia, the upturn in cases came as the government lifted some of the latest restrictions imposed to control the spread of the coronavirus and allowed the opening of nightclubs, bars and cinemas for the first time in more than a year.

Cities like Medellín and Bogotá are preparing to host trade fairs and music events that will be attended by thousands of people, while 10,000 recently attended a soccer game in the coastal city of Barranquilla.

Municipal governments say they have no choice but to allow these events to regain jobs and aid economic recovery.

The country’s unemployment rate doubled in the last year when the government implemented lockdowns to slow infections and the nation’s Gross Domestic Product contracted by 7%.

Vaccination accelerated in June with up to 350,000 doses administered in one day, but only 10% of the population is fully immunized.

Doctors fear that recent decisions to allow more meetings will increase the number of critically ill patients in hospitals, which are already busy. In Bogotá, Cali and Medellín, more than 95% of the beds in hospital intensive care units are already occupied.

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