Colombia’s Bogota To Enter Lockdown Amid New Strain Concerns

Colombia’s Bogota To Enter Lockdown Amid New Strain Concerns
A woman wearing a face mask drives a motorcycle in one of the neighbourhoods where the mayor's office decreed strict quarantine, amidst an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Bogota, Colombia on Jan. 5, 2021. (Luisa Gonzalez/Reuters File Photo)

BOGOTA—Colombia’s capital will enter a strict quarantine until Tuesday due to rising coronavirus infection numbers and suspicions a new variant of the virus is circulating, Mayor of Bogota Claudia Lopez said on Thursday.

Strict quarantines were imposed on three Bogota neighborhoods this week to control rising infections, which Lopez said could be caused by a new variant of the virus first identified in the United Kingdom.

People throughout the capital will be largely confined to their homes from midnight on Thursday until four o'clock in the morning on Tuesday, said Lopez, declaring a red alert in the city. Non-essential shops and businesses will be closed and one person per household will be allowed to buy food or medicine.

Curfews lasting from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. will then run until Jan. 17.

“We are confronting a new strain of COVID which is very possibly already circulating in Bogota,” Lopez told a news conference. “We can’t see any other reason for the viral load we are finding in patients.”

UK case numbers have risen sharply, driven in part by a new variant of the virus that is up to 70 percent more transmissible than the original. But Colombia’s health ministry said there was no proof the variant had reached the country.

“Right now there’s no scientific evidence that accelerating COVID-19 transmission in Colombia can be attributed to the new British strain,” Ministry of Health director for epidemiology and demography Julian Fernandez Nino said in a statement.

Colombia has reported more than 1.73 million coronavirus infections and 45,067 deaths from COVID-19, the disease it causes.

In Bogota, which counts for over a quarter of national cases, occupancy of intensive care units for coronavirus stands at 83.9 percent, according to local government figures.

The neighborhoods of Usaquen, Suba, and Engativa will remain in strict quarantine as planned until Jan. 18 and strict quarantines will be extended in the neighborhoods of Kennedy, Fontibon, and Teusaquillo until Jan. 22, Lopez said.

By Oliver Griffin