A military police officer wearing a face mask patrols a street during the government-mandated quarantine to lower the rates of contagion from the coronavirus disease outbreak, in Bogota, Colombia.

Colombia’s long Covid-19 lockdown fuels anxiety and depression

Like a lot of the world, Colombia shut down in March as coronavirus circumstances surged in Europe and commenced trickling into the South American nation.

But whereas restrictions have been lifted in lots of locations elsewhere, a nationwide stay-at-home order stays in impact in Colombia greater than 4 months after being put into place.

Isolation orders have been prolonged repeatedly as circumstances proceed to rise and a restricted financial reopening that started in April has inched ahead solely barely. Colombia now has the ninth-highest complete of Covid-19 infections worldwide, prompting President Iván Duque to lengthen the quarantine once more till late August.

The results of the lengthy isolation are starting to floor: In the capital of Bogota, the mayor’s workplace reviews that suicide makes an attempt are up 21% for the reason that begin of quarantine. Psychologists have seen a dramatic rise in new sufferers complaining of hysteria and despair. Divorce legal professionals say they’re getting extra inquiries, though purchasers additionally uncover they can’t afford to separate.

“From one moment to the next, my life changed,” mentioned Myriam Roncancio, 35, who resides together with her dad and mom after breaking apart together with her husband. “A 180-degree turn.”

Health specialists say Colombia and a handful of different locations in Latin America with particularly lengthy lockdowns have been reasonably profitable in utilizing the time to sluggish infections, increase testing and increase ICU capability. But in addition they fear about quarantine fatigue simply as circumstances attain their peak, and so they say extra needs to be executed to emphasize commonsense protections.

“I’m worried about middle- to low-income countries where it seems quarantine is the main strategy,” says Andrés Vecino, a well being economist at John Hopkins University. “And that creates a problem because in the medium term, it gets exhausted.”

The lengthy lockdown is actually a results of timing: Colombia and far of South America imposed the strict measures once they had far fewer circumstances than Europe. Quarantines in Europe have steadily been lifted as confirmed circumstances have dropped, though some international locations in Africa are nonetheless locked down.

But in Latin America -– now an epicenter within the pandemic -– reviews of infections are persevering with to climb.

“We wanted to go at the same velocity as Europe,” mentioned Carlos Alvarez, a scientific trial coordinator for the World Health Organization in Colombia. “But the moment of the pandemic was different.”

A map by researchers on the University of Oxford monitoring authorities response measures reveals a lot of the world in an accordion-like dance of opening and shutting to numerous levels, whereas a substantial a part of South America stays caught.

“It’s not the only region -– but it is more true in Latin America than many other parts of the world, I’d say,” mentioned Thomas Hale, a professor spearheading the venture.

Outside the area, a number of different components of the world stay repeatedly confined.

In Africa, the place circumstances are rising, a number of international locations have imposed strict measures. South Africa, with greater than 500,000 circumstances, has banned the sale of alcohol and cigarettes, closed bars and imposed a nighttime curfew. Masks are necessary in public areas, with fines imposed on those that ignore the regulation.

To be certain, even Colombia’s nationwide “preventative obligatory isolation” was by no means as deep and strict as quarantines elsewhere. There at the moment are 46 exceptions that enable individuals to depart residence for varied actions.

Peru gave up on isolation measures after three months as a result of extreme financial value and excessive variety of casual staff flouting the quarantine. Others like Brazil and Mexico by no means closed solely.

But many Colombians like Nilva Rodriguez, 50, in Barranquilla, have scarcely left their properties. Only twice in 4 months has she been exterior the home she shares together with her aged dad and mom, brother, his pregnant spouse and a teenage youngster.

When she talks to family members in Miami, she says they’re shocked to be taught that she can not even go to a close-by seaside as a result of it stays closed.

Her mom, accustomed to going to church every day, has grown depressed and complains that digital Mass simply isn’t the identical. Her father typically will get irritable. Everyone has staked out part of the home for themselves.

“Every month has its drama, its situation,” she says.

Calls to a Bogota hotline to report home violence have greater than doubled since earlier than quarantine. The mayor’s workplace has arrange a cellular brigade working across the clock to reply to psychological well being crises. A metropolis cellphone service providing psychological assist has gotten almost 25,000 calls in the course of the lockdown.

Miguel Antonio Duarte, a psychologist in Bogota, mentioned he has twice as many sufferers. They embrace males with anger-management points and ladies seeking to finish relationships.

“This context has allowed women to finally realize they are being mistreated,” he mentioned.

Conversely, the lockdown has additionally made it harder for a lot of ladies to report home abuse and file for divorce, mentioned lawyer Jimmy Jiménez.

In Bogota, residents are allowed out for sure nonessential actions solely on odd and even days of the week, relying on the final variety of their nationwide identification playing cards. Because many additionally earn a living from home, meaning little time to flee from an abusive partner. Those looking for divorces shortly understand they will’t afford it, barely capable of pay hire, utilities and meals payments as a household unit.

As a outcome, many strained {couples} keep collectively, sleeping in separate rooms.

The escalating psychological pressure is occurring in a rustic the place many already really feel anxiousness, despair or post-traumatic stress associated to Colombia’s lengthy civil battle -– and the place there’s appreciable stigma round psychological illnesses.

“This is a country with the traumas of war, drug trafficking, violence,” mentioned Dr. Omar Cuéllar, the director of a personal psychological well being clinic in Bogota. “It’s a hotbed in which very easily any new circumstance can make things that much worse.”

Colombia has considerably elevated virus testing and expanded ICU capability by virtually 40% for the reason that outbreak started — developments that officers say have allowed it to keep away from a complete collapse of the well being care system.

Yet specialists like Dr. Luis Jorge Hernández, a public well being professor on the University of the Andes, fear concerning the dangerous unwanted side effects of asking individuals to remain inside so lengthy, like decrease vaccination charges and worsening cardiac illness in these already largely sitting indoors.

“The quarantine is causing a lot of damage,” he mentioned.

President Iván Duque says the nation is shifting towards extra centered quarantines. Bogota is instituting stricter lockdowns in sure neighborhoods for two-week durations. The mayor is also requiring those that are overweight or with sure persistent illnesses to remain indoors.

The Americas department of the WHO put out a strict name final week for nations to not reopen till their circumstances are declining.

For Roncancio, whose marriage of 10 years ended abruptly, life has been on maintain.

After she misplaced her job as a restaurant administrator in the beginning of the outbreak and her husband misplaced his as a baggage handler at Bogota’s airport, they have been unable to pay their hire and their quarreling turned extra frequent. That’s when he left, she says.

Now she shares a room together with her two kids in her dad and mom’ condominium and will get out solely twice per week to purchase groceries.

“It’s like a ghost town,” she mentioned. “I can’t get used to it.”