LIMA – Iquitos suffered one of the most tragic attacks from COVID-19 on the planet, with hundreds of deaths and grim images of hospital collapse and the drama of the lack of medical oxygen. Nowadays, however, the virus seems to have practically become extinct without anyone really knowing why.
Located in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon rainforest, this city, the largest in the world that cannot be reached by road, is a complex case study of the disease, which has reached its hardest extremes there, but where it also it has deflated dramatically to now have only a trickle of isolated cases and with hardly any clinical consequences.
Since the beginning of September, the painful statistics of death, hospital admissions and unstoppable progression of the disease have been blurred to almost irrelevant numbers, with little certainty but some suspicion of what may have happened.
In the entire Loreto region, whose capital is Iquitos, only 4 cases of the disease were reported last week, and 19 the week before. According to the data that could be consulted, none required hospital admission.
Sources of the public health system report that in Iquitos hospitals there were only 3 patients admitted for COVID-19 this Friday and two suspected of having the disease.
There also appears to be few deaths and although there is still an excess of mortality in the area compared to the records prior to the pandemic, in the city of Iquitos itself, where about 413,000 people live, the vast majority of the region’s population, normality seems to have returned.
False negatives are more common than expected.
In Loreto, the positivity rate for COVID-19 tests is very high and is around 35%, although very few have been done for weeks, and almost all rapid tests, which detect antibodies, but not the validity of the virus.
But more than figures, there is the general perception in the city that something happened with the disease.
“Yes, it is true that there are almost no cases. When you talk to colleagues, they say that there are one or two cases per week, at most. During the crisis there were sessions with 300 patients, up to 500 per day. Let those cases come now, that they are also milder, obviously it makes everything much more bearable, “said Luis Runciman, dean of the Loreto Medical College.
Faced with the risk she runs in the midst of the pandemic, Delia Contreras, 66, has resigned herself to not leaving her home. He spoke with TELEMUNDO 20 about his fear of contracting coronavirus and never seeing his family again.
With reservations, and always pointing out the risks that such a situation reveals, the explanation that this doctor found for this abrupt and already prolonged drop in cases, in an economy with practically no restrictions and in a social context such as Loreto where social distancing it is a chimera, it passes through a certain “herd immunity”.
“The Loreto Health Directorate did a research work, stratified, by zones, by age, very well done, where it was found that the prevalence of COVID-19 is 74% in Iquitos. It has been repeated in different months, and that prevalence has been repeated. If so, there would be only 25% of the population that has not suffered from the disease and those are now the sporadic cases that are occurring, “he said.
In this context, Runciman pointed out that while Spain or Italy published prevalence studies that indicated that only 5% of their populations had been infected, the logic suggested that a second massive wave was a great possibility.
“But this region has a much higher prevalence, and thus less scope for something like this to happen. In Iquitos you don’t see this second wave behavior, for several months we have had very, very low cases, only sporadic. a second wave, and that can be attributed to the high prevalence in the peak months of the pandemic. It is simply that there are few people left susceptible to becoming ill, “he reasoned.
However, the medical dean of Loreto indicated that for the region “the great risk has not yet passed,” and asked for great prudence and not to lower our guard. “It happens that we do not know anything, we do not know how many serotypes there may be of the disease. How many types of COVID are there? We can say that we passed one, but that another more aggressive arrives, so we must continue to prepare for the worst,” he said.
However, this request does not seem to have penetrated the population, which assumes as a fact, and for the most pilgrim reasons, as it was found, that COVID-19 has already passed.
A passenger traveling on the Limousine Express bus line died of COVID-19 after taking the route from El Paso, Texas, to Denver, Colorado. In addition, several passengers who were in the same truck were infected with the virus.
“If there is immunity, because at the time it was so strong that it affected us all. Now people are confident and know what to cure themselves with, using our plants from the jungle and with that we are cured. There is tranquility and people are confident. We are at zero, “said Germán Salas, a vendor in the popular Belén neighborhood of Iquitos.
Mirna Padilla, a client agreed in pointing out that the residents of the city have “become immune” to the virus, since they have already passed “the bad time.” Likewise, he indicated that the area “is going to live with this COVID, which has not yet completely gone, as we live with other diseases such as dengue and malaria. So we will continue, protecting and caring for ourselves,” he added.