After getting through the worst of the pandemic so far, and two weeks after the end of the quarantine, the Minister of Health, Fernando Ruiz, assures that The measures that society has applied to protect itself from the new coronavirus have paid off.
And, although he acknowledges the possibility of new waves of infections, as in Europe, he says that the country is better prepared in infrastructure and knowledge for such a scenario. In an interview, she responds to critical issues such as the fall of. number of tests, vaccines and the balance of Colombia compared to other countries.
How is the pandemic going?
We enter a third phase of isolation, the selective one. This is based on individual responsibility, and that is what we are doing, each person protects themselves, their families and their loved ones. The capacity of the laboratories went from a daily average of 3,393 tests in April to 32,198 in August. The expansion of FIA allowed to give an answer to the patients. And the expansion of the outpatient care capacity guaranteed the continuity of treatment and care at home. With a cut to July, more than 40 million home care were made.
If a second wave were to arrive, it would be expected to be smaller and less lethal
There is an objective decrease in mortality, but is the reduction in cases not linked to a decrease in evidence?
There are various reasons for this. One is the decrease in ICU occupancy; another, testing a single family member, with a focus on isolation. Also, that there are less massive tests and that the laboratories are up to date on the results. But this decline is mainly explained by the reduction in demand and the elimination of the second test for those who tested positive.
Some say that the drop in cases is due to low testing and that the pandemic figures would be different, what do you answer them?
That’s not true. The number of associated deaths has also been declining, suggesting that cases as well. The decrease in cases is due to strategies and decisions taken by the Government, but also to the fact that self-care measures have been effective (correct use of masks, hand washing and physical distancing).
The Prass strategy is based on trace through evidence. Is that being fulfilled?
The foundation of the Testing, Tracking and Sustainable Selective Insulation (Prass) is the identification of probable chains of contagion upon confirmation of a case. The isolation product of this screening does not require a confirmatory test. The key to success is to trace and isolate the positives and their contacts to cut the chains of transmission.
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After opening, some see an increase in cases. How does this look two weeks later?
From what we have, we can analyze that the decrease in mortality continues and the number of cases is maintained. Also, that self-care and individual responsibility measures have been effective. We must bear in mind the possibility of regrowth, so we must not lower our guard in precautions. We must be prudent with activities, without forgetting that the virus is among us. It may increase in some municipalities where they have not yet reached the peak of the epidemic, but we have installed capacity for care.
Outbreaks can come because the percentage of unaffected people is still high
You have said that the country is a sum of regional pandemics. At this moment, who is descending, who is ascending, who has already passed?
Leticia, Barranquilla, Tumaco and Quibdó have already passed their first peak; Bogotá, Pasto, Cúcuta, Valledupar, Santa Marta, Riohacha, Villavicencio, Florencia and Popayán are in decline; Pereira, Medellín, Cali, Ibagué and Manizales have a sustained level.
In Europe they face the second waves. Is this possible in Colombia?
The possibility is and will remain as long as we do not have a vaccine or an effective measure to combat the virus. I recently read that the most important vaccine at the moment is the mask, and I could encompass it by saying that it is self-care. The outbreaks may come because the percentage of unaffected people is still high, but as long as we comply with the measures we will be able to resume activities that we used to do before March.
All, yes, with the necessary prudence. And if a second wave were to arrive, it would be expected that it will be smaller and less lethal, as has happened in Europe. Fortunately, most countries are better prepared for a second or third wave; with self-care measures, greater diagnostic, tracking, isolation and attention capabilities.
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How is the strategy to acquire vaccines going?
Good progress. We have expressed interest in participating in the Covax mechanism, which assures us access to safe and effective vaccines (at the close of this edition, the Government announced that this will be the main strategy and that details will be specified this week). We are evaluating making agreements with several pharmaceutical companies. To date we have not signed agreements with producers because we need more information about their products.
How is the country’s situation in the international context?
When comparing ourselves, we must do so knowing that all countries are at a different point in the epidemic. The number of cases reported by each country is associated with the sensitivity of the surveillance systems. To have a less biased view of how we are, a good approximation is to compare the number of accumulated deaths per million inhabitants on the same day as the epidemic. On September 14, Colombia reached 192 days since the first case (March 6) and compared to Germany, Argentina, France, the United States, Mexico, Italy, Brazil, Ecuador, Spain, Chile and Peru, it ranks fourth with lowest number of deaths per million inhabitants (455). Colombia has undoubtedly made one of the largest efforts in the region to contain the pandemic and rest assured that we will continue to seek strategies and measures to move forward.