Colombia surpasses one million Covid-19 cases: ministry

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A health worker takes a blood sample from a woman during a Covid-19 test in Medellin, Colombia on October 24, 2020
A health worker takes a blood sample from a woman during a Covid-19 test in Medellin, Colombia on October 24, 2020

Colombia on Saturday surpassed the benchmark of one million cases of Covid-19 registered in the country since the beginning of the pandemic, the health ministry announced.

The last 24 hours saw 8,769 new infections, bringing the total to 1,007,711 since the first case was detected on March 6, the ministry said.

Deaths rose to 30,000 after authorities added 198 fatalities from the last 10 days.

With 50 million people, Colombia is the eighth country to top a million infections, after the United States, India, Brazil, Russia, Argentina, Spain and France. 

At an event in Chinchina, Caldas, President Ivan Duque stressed that Colombia has a relatively low death rate among Latin American countries on a per capita basis.

"We did much better than other countries. But I do not say this so that we feel proud, I say it because we must protect ourselves better," the conservative said. 

According to the National Institute of Health, Colombia ranks tenth in the region with an average of 561 deaths per million inhabitants: almost half of Peru (1,016) and about a quarter less than Brazil (719).

Colombia went under a national lockdown on March 25, then relaxed restrictions to shore up its collapsing economy. Since September 1, the country has been relying on individual responsibility and widespread use of masks in public places.

Duque says he has allocated resources of "close to 11 percent of GDP" -- some $31 billion -- to deal with the crisis. 

Unemployment in cities nonetheless climbed to an all-time high of 19.6 percent in August.

With 308,645 infections, the Colombian capital Bogota accounts for a third of the country's cases and is the city most affected by the virus.

However, in recent weeks the number of Covid patients has soared in the department of Antioquia, with intensive care units at capacity.

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