Published in El Pais, 26 May 2021.
Last week Bolivia had 16,337 new cases of COVID-19 in just one week. The highest number since the start of the pandemic. With this fact, it is very likely that the highest number of deaths in two weeks will also be reached. Hopefully, everything improves soon, but it is hard to say. What is going on? What Causes This? Obviously, all I can say are hypotheses, but I am going to try to explain what could be causing all this.
First, it is possible that the people who have been infected in the first wave have actually lost their immunity and are being re-infected. The veracity of this is still under discussion but for a research we still have too little data. Some say that a reinfection is less severe, and others say the opposite. Various models show that the more people are infected, the fewer people will be susceptible, and the fewer people will be able to transfer the virus. A logic that I also assume. Now, with more data and information, it would appear that this assumption does not have as much shelf life as we thought. I personally think that it is more likely that a new strain is responsible for this and that this is part of the cause of the horrible third wave in Bolivia.
Second, I think there is a lot of optimism about the arrival of vaccines and that people are forgetting to take the simple measures, like distancing themselves, washing their hands, and avoiding crowds. I understand that we all want to celebrate birthdays and go out, but it is still not safe. Take note, so far, Bolivia only has one million people who received their first dose and only 300 thousand people received the second dose. If we include the effectiveness of vaccines that vary between 50% and 90%, it means that perhaps on average these 1.3 million people only have a level of protection of just 50%. This is only 6% of the population. Too low to make a difference.
Third, I believe that the Bolivian government is not taking its role as a crisis manager seriously and takes random actions driven by political, emotional, and even personal motives. The population follows this example. If the government continues to organize parties and other face-to-face activities, I am not surprised that the population does the same. Furthermore, there is no good epidemiological information available in Bolivia. For the population to really understand the severity of the situation, it is necessary to clearly see every day how the data is developing and understand the risk so that they can make a decision on whether or not to expose themselves to the risks of COVID-19.
It is increasingly difficult to understand the progress of COVID-19, we have more and more questions, but we also know more and more. Something that so far is clear is that governments and their population have an important role in controlling and solving this health crisis.