Bolivia surpasses 100,000 cases, authorities predict September peak

Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in La Paz

By Danny Ramos

LA PAZ (Reuters) - Bolivia surpassed 100,000 coronavirus cases on Sunday, the country's Ministry of Health reported, predicting that the virus would reach its peak there in September.

Bolivia's confirmed coronavirus infections reached 100,344, the ministry said, and there have been 4,058 deaths since the virus first emerged in the country in early March.

"Cases are climbing steadily, at least in the western side of the country. By the end of the month, we will reach ... 130,000 to 150,000," Rene Sahonero, the ministry's director general of hospitals, told state television.

Sahonero said cases had accelerated among Bolivia's population of 11.6 million after recent protests linked to the postponement of general elections.

The Electoral Court decided in July to postpone the vote until Oct. 18 due to the spread of the coronavirus.

In recent weeks, thousands of people including supporters of unseated former leftist leader Evo Morales have taken part in demonstrations and blocked roads around the country to demand that the polls take place as originally planned on Sept. 6.

The election is being fought between Morales’ Movement for Socialism (MAS) party and a fragmented conservative opposition, including interim President Jeanine Anez, who took over in a power vacuum last year promising swift new elections.

Bolivia’s government has ordered police and military onto the streets to protect key installations and the transport of medical supplies after more than 30 COVID patients died during the protests due to lack of oxygen.

Among those confirmed to have died of COVID in recent days is the sister of Morales.

The former president, who is in Argentina, said in a tweet that Esther Morales was "like a mother to me" and lamented being unable to return to attend her funeral.

(Reporting by Danny Ramos; Writing by Aislinn Laing; Editing by Tom Hogue)