An employee of commercial sector of San Victorino wearing a face mask holds a sign that reads “You take care of yourself, I take care of myself, for your life and the well-being of all keep your distance and wear the face mask” during the Christmas sales season as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak continues in Bogota, Colombia December 5, 2020. Picture taken December 5, 2020. REUTERS / Luisa Gonzalez

This Saturday, March 6, marks one year since the arrival of the first case of covid-19 in Colombia: a 19-year-old girl who arrived in Bogotá from Milan, Italy , and who, according to the Ministry of Health and Social Protection, had initially 16 close contacts, mostly from his family nucleus.

Since then, the country has come a long way, full of successes and mourning, but that leaves a clear picture: 2,269,582 cases of covid-19, of which 33,950 remain active, while 60,300 have resulted in deaths, up to the afternoon of Friday, March 5 . For that same date, the balance of vaccinated in the national territory was 239,851 people.

Behind these figures there are many others shared by the national government as part of the recognition of those 365 days of struggle, such as the realization, so far, of 75 unified command posts to respond to covid-19, from intersectoral work between entities territorial and nation, to generate joint actions.

Others, more focused on these specific actions, show an increase from 1 to 165 laboratories equipped to process the tests that detect the virus , and that according to Martha Ospina, director of the National Institute of Health, INS, today they assure the country has a capacity to corroborate 76,000 molecular tests a day, as well as some 35,000 of antigen.

The issue in facilities transcends the hospital scenario, where the country went from 5,346 beds in intensive care units at the beginning of the health emergency to 12,002 today , of which 1,025 would have been provided by the national government. A good part of these reached territories such as Buenaventura and Chocó, which received public ICUs for the first time in their history.

Colombia accumulates 59,972 deaths and today added another 4,339 infections that raised the positives to 2,259,599 since March 6, 2020. EFE / Mauricio Dueñas Castañeda / Archive

Along with those just over a thousand beds, the national administration also purchased and assigned a total of 5,131 ventilators, 4,211 monitors, 50 portable X-ray machines, 5,612 infusion pumps , 57 defibrillators and 11 ultrasound machines. All in all, state investment for equipment and infrastructure amounted to 782,000 million pesos

To this are added another 382,183 million pesos, directed to a total of 251,559 health professionals who care for patients with covid-19, as a bonus, and which in turn are part of a package of 1 billion pesos transferred to EPS and IPS to pay back payments to all human talent in health . Similarly, 2.1 trillion pesos were reported, transferred to the same institutions for debt settlement by end-point agreement with 2.1; and another 5 billion for money transfer legalizations.

All in all, the professionals were able to attend a total of 101,249,764 telehealth consultations during the last year, going from 1 million during March 2020, to just over 10 million each month during the last six. At the same time, there is talk of a total of 70,000 people from the team of human talent in health trained to attend the pandemic, and of almost 40,000 trained to face the vaccination process.

At the same time, the Minister of Health and Social Protection, Fernando Ruiz, added that at the bureaucratic level some 500 administrative acts have been signed, including decrees, resolutions and circulars ; and about 1,300 bulletins, videos and communication actions, to keep the Colombian population informed and protected regarding the pandemic.

Some of these led to the creation of programs such as Sustainable Selective Testing, Tracking and Isolation, Prass, which seeks to cut the chain of contact by tracking and isolating confirmed and suspected cases, as well as identifying and tracking their close contacts. This, by January 2021, reached the sum of at least 1,000,000 registered contacts and another 900,000 suspected cases that were under management , with the support of 2015 field trackers who support the process in the territories.

Others who were present throughout Colombia were INS workers. According to Ospina, under the pillar of public health surveillance, the institute deployed 367 response teams that have invested the equivalent of 370 days in the territory, accompanying the departments, attending at least 6,200 large conglomerates of the disease.

All of the above, accompanied by social programs such as VAT Refund, which reached 1 million Colombian households with quotas of 75,000 pesos every two months , for a total investment of 375,000 million; o Income Solidario, which invested 4.4 billion to bring 160,000 pesos a month to 3 million households.

Along with these are the programs of the Department of Social Prosperity, such as Familias en Acción, which generated payments of 145,000 pesos for 2.6 million households , with an investment of 3.8 billion as of last February; Jovenes en Acción, which with funds amounting to 1.15 billion made payments of 356,000 pesos to 428,000 low-income students; and Colombia Mayor, which covered 1.7 million older adults with funds amounting to 3.1 billion.

Finally, there is Paef, which managed to subsidize the salaries of 3.6 million Colombian employees so that they could keep their jobs. Effort that, however, was not enough to mitigate the number of unemployed, which at the beginning of this year was in the order of 4,167,000 people, not counting the levels of informality, which rose to 50 percent, or the closing of companies, which for Bogotá and 59 other municipalities reached the sum of 24,393 establishments.

File photo. 
Claudia Benavides, an intensive care nurse at Clínica Colombia, receives an injection with a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19 in Bogotá, Colombia, February 18, 2021. REUTERS / Luisa González

It has been a year of highs, such as the arrival of vaccines to counter covid-19 since last February 15. At the moment, the country has received 509,000 biologicals, and awaits the arrival this weekend of two shipments of 958,000 and 547,880 doses of Sinovac ; another of 802,120 from the same pharmaceutical company for March 18 and one more, sent by Covax, of 244,000 doses of AstraZeneca.

But also low, such as the 60,300 deaths, including that of Arnold de Jesús Ricardo Iregui, a 58-year-old taxi driver who worked in Cartagena and who is registered as the first fatal victim of the disease , on February 26, despite the fact that the first case dates from March 6. Regarding his death, there are still many inconsistencies that have not been resolved, such as the time of death or the medical attention he received.

In the midst of all this context, the president of Colombia, Iván Duque pointed out that “this year of the pandemic that has hit the world, against which we have had the capacity to react, of course we have also lost the lives of Colombians; but with respect to the scenarios that were initially projected, our behavior has been favorably different from what could be seen as a serious scenario when seeing how this dangerous virus was hitting our region and our country ”.

Today, the goal of the national government is to achieve herd immunity, for which 35 million Colombians need to be vaccinated .

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