In keeping with its globe-trotting character, coronavirus has landed in Colombia by plane from Italy, according to Bogotá-based health officials.
The news we were all expecting – but hoped would never come – was announced this afternoon after a 19-year-old female patient from Colombia, who recently flew back from Milan was tested positive on the coronavirus by the National Health Institute.
Soon after the announcement recently appointed Health Minister Fernando Ruiz took to the airwaves to call for calm. “There’s no need to panic; we’re prepared,” said Dr Ruiz.
But a tweet from Bogota mayor Claudia López was hardly reassuring: the patient had in fact arrived in the country from Italy some days ago and went to the city’s Hospital Fundación Santa Fe on March two with cough-like symptoms, before the positive test today, and is currently “being isolated at home”.
This fact rather undermines President Duque’s assertion at a press country today of “strict migration control” as an effective tool against cases coming in.
In fact, Colombia may well be wise to worry: the country scored poorly on last year’s Global Health Security Index, set up before the Covid-19 coronavirus was detected, but designed to measure worldwide resilience to flu-like outbreaks.
Colombia comes 65th in the world ranking with a 43% score, putting it behind Costa Rica and Peru, but ahead of Venezuela with a hyper low 23%.
No cases have yet been reported from that neighbouring country.
The Colombia Covid-19 case comes as the world total topped 100,000 this week and claimed close to 3,500 deaths, most in China, but also in Italy where the Bogotá import originated.
Perhaps surprising given its air connections with Europe and the U.S., Colombia has been a latecomer to the viral pandemic which first took off in January and is now occurring in 85 countries including nearby Ecuador, Brazil, Peru and Chile.
A health bulletin emitted by the Health Ministry today stated that the country “had been preparing since eight weeks to confront the arrival of the new coronavirus” and had developed self-help campaigns for citizens based on hand-washing, which is the most effective way to prevent person-to-person spread of the flu-like bug.
The National Health Institute has also been reporting many tests of suspect cases in recent weeks, all negative until now. With a confirmed case the “preparation phase” was now ended, said the Ministry of Health, and is now moving to the “containment phase”, though it has not yet given details of what this entails.