COVID 19 Update: Testing in Colombia

April 17, 2020



Testing for SARS-coV-2

                                                                                      Photo: Colombia Reports 


Here in Medellin we're in week 3 of the national COVID quarantine. As this is written Colombia, population 49 million people, is reporting 3,233 confirmed coronavirus cases, and 144 deaths from the virus. Here's the status of  testing in Colombia: 


As of April 16th, there have been 52,085 tests, which translates to 940 tests per million people. A lag in testing in Colombia was due to a shortage of test kits and chemical reagents, as is still the case in many parts of the world.




Another reason testing has been slowed is that in the early days of the crisis, a device used to automate testing in Colombia malfunctioned. The machine had been testing up to 100 samples per hour, then techs had to test samples by hand. The device is functioning again, and testing continues.


One bright spot in the coronavirus testing front is that, with the exception of South Korea, where positive tests make up just 2% of people tested, Colombia is second lowest at just over 6.2%. In comparison, the U.S tested rate is more than 19% positive. 


 COVID 19 tests per week/Colombia

                                                                                                                                                        Chart courtesy of INS


As you can see in this chart, the number of tests in Colombia has steadily increased, currently at nearly 15,000 per week. Here in Medellin, 1,071 tests had been done by April 6th, and 630 more were pending results.


According to data emanating from Twitter feeds at INS, there are presently 47 labs testing for coronavirus in Colombia, with at least 25 more coming on line very soon. Of the two standard tests—reverse transcriptase testing, the so called gold standard, and molecular testing, the RT test is being used here in Colombia. Another 'molecular' testing platform, Abbot Labs' ID NOW™, may be acquired as time goes on, possibly by the end of April. While ID NOW™ requires no lab, and returns results in as little as 5 minutes, for now these devices are available only in the U.S.


 Is Social Distancing Working?

                                                                                                                                                                                  Graph: INS Colombia


Perhaps the measures taken by authorities in Colombia to 'flatten the curve' of COVID 19 cases are working. According to the graph above they appear to be. But further testing and tracking may prove otherwise. 


 "I'm at home, but I can't flatten the curve! And this curve—how flat is it?


Speaking of testing, the government mandated social distancing protocols are still in place, and those demands are testing all of us in various ways. Being restricted to ones home is difficult at any time. Stuck inside with beautiful Colombian weather, and lots of free time, and many places to explore is doubly hard. But health is everything, so we stay home, sleep late, read (a lot), watch Netflix, and History Channel, and other documentary and/or escapist programs and bide our time.


And we eat. And drink. A lot. Like the poor hombre above, our personal curves are rising  not flattening. We've had the opportunity to test other things as well, for example how well the home delivery system functions here. We're happy to report that, with very few exceptions, it works very well. 


 Sunset in The Valley of Aburrá


Looking across the Aburrá valley with its 3.5 million souls, it's been remarkable how little human activity can be seen. It's not an 'end of the world' scenario so much as a testament to how—unlike in certain parts of the world—people are considering family & friends, and not willing to risk passing the virus along, are staying home, Colombianos seem to be abiding by the dictates, and heeding the experts. Testing will continue, and so will these reports. Thanks for reading.
















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