Colombia to move to 'selective' quarantine, participate in vaccine trials

BOGOTA (Reuters) – Colombia will enter a period of “selective” quarantine when its five months of national coronavirus lockdown ends at the close of August, President Ivan Duque said on Monday, and will be part of Johnson & Johnson vaccine trials.

Restrictions on events and large crowds will continue during September while the government evaluates the spread of the virus, Duque said, as more economic reactivation with safety protocols moves ahead.

“On Sept. 1 a new phase begins where we change the concept of preventative obligatory isolation with a large number of exceptions to a concept of selective isolation, of distancing, of individual responsibility,” Duque said during his nightly television broadcast.

Confirmed and suspected coronavirus patients should still isolate, Health Minister Fernando Ruiz said during the broadcast.

The Andean country will also participate in phase three vaccine trials with Johnson & Johnson, Duque said.

“Colombia today has signed a deal with (Johnson & Johnson) to carry out tests for phase three in the investigation of their vaccine.”

The trial will include 60,000 healthy volunteers worldwide between the ages of 18 and 60 who will receive a single dose of the vaccine, the health ministry said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the capital Bogota will end a strict coronavirus quarantine in seven of its neighborhoods four days earlier than planned because occupation rates in intensive care units (ICUs) have fallen, the mayor said.

The capital – home to more than a third of the country’s more than 550,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases – has held several rounds of strict lockdowns by neighborhood even as national quarantine restrictions have loosened.

The most recent round had been set to last until Aug. 30, but will end on Wednesday.

“This Wednesday at midnight all the quarantines by neighborhood will completely end,” mayor Claudia Lopez said during a virtual press conference.

Occupation of ICUs peaked at 93.2% near the end of July. The units were 77.6% occupied as of Sunday.

More than 17,600 people in Colombia have died from COVID-19.

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