Colombian Armed Forces Stand Up Field Hospitals to Battle Coronavirus
By Geraldine Cook March 31, 2020
As the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Colombia continues to rise, the military is doing its part to help assist in combatting the virus.
These efforts range from securing the nation’s borders, patrolling the streets with police to enforce stay at home orders and social distancing, and handing out much needed food and supplies to various communities.
The Armed Forces are also establishing field hospitals throughout parts of the country to receive coronavirus patients. On March 24, Minister of Defense Carlos Holmes Trujillo announced that the Military Forces and the National Police were standing up to 1,800 beds to expand patient care in different regions of the country.
In Bogotá, the country’s Central Military Hospital, which for decades was flooded with victims from landmines and other casualties from the country’s internal conflict against leftist rebels, right-wing paramilitary groups, and drug cartels, is now being outfitted to battle the coronavirus.
The hospital’s staff parking lot is now home to generator-supplied tents with more than 200 beds. This makeshift emergency room is meant to house coronavirus patients without respiratory complications in an effort to avoid crowding the existing intensive care units in other hospitals.
Without the tents, the hospital has 450 beds and an intensive care unit with a 50-patient capacity. The country’s main police hospital, also in Bogotá, has installed similar tents with 174 beds.
“We’ve been preparing for several months, since we started to see what was happening in other countries in relation to COVID-19,” Army General Clara Esperanza Galvis, director of the Central Military Hospital, told the news agency Reuters.
President Iván Duque ordered a nationwide 19-day quarantine beginning on March 24 to prevent the further spread of the virus and to preserve lives. The Health Ministry predicts that up to 4 million people, about 8 percent of the population, could contract coronavirus in Colombia.
Minister Holmes Trujillo also stated that nearly 9,000 national police officers would be assigned to the protection of supermarkets and large food distribution areas, as well as establishments such as transport terminals, airports, and financial centers.
“No abuse of any kind will be tolerated against food distribution centers, and we will act accordingly against those who intend to use force in these cases,” he said.
Holmes Trujillo also defended the use of the military and police to enforce the national quarantine, saying that this unprecedented event calls for them to go above and beyond. “The circumstances of this emergency have forced the Army and the Police to take these steps and to do it better,” he said. “Colombian lives depend on it.”