A sixty-five-year-old woman in Oruro was one of the first patients known to be infected with the coronavirus. Six other infected patients in Oruro and one in Cochabamba, as confirmed through tests by 12 March, were in contact with her. This was the first known instance of local transmission in Bolivia. The city and department began mandatory social distancing measures on 16 March. A further 65 contacts and family members of those were infected were confined to thei
A sixty-five-year-old woman in Oruro was one of the first patients known to be infected with the coronavirus. Six other infected patients in Oruro and one in Cochabamba, as confirmed through tests by 12 March, were in contact with her. This was the first known instance of local transmission in Bolivia. The city and department began mandatory social distancing measures on 16 March. A further 65 contacts and family members of those were infected were confined to their homes, but showed no symptoms of the disease. As of 25 March, the first Oruro patient was no longer showing symptoms and had tested negative for the disease twice; doctors expect her to be declared Bolivia's first recovered COVID-19 patient.
The first case to be tested positive in Potosí was announced on 25 March. Regional health authorities that this patient is a 69-year-old woman. She was infected by her son, a transport driver who had recently been in Chile. The driver had not disclosed his symptoms and was, according to the health authorities, treated privately by family members who are physicians.
Following the announcement of the first confirmed case, incidents were reported among the local population, including large-scale purchasing of surgical masks and hand sanitizer and blocking access to hospitals. On 19 March a patient under observation who was required to stay in isolation tried to escape but was caught when he tried to take a trip between departments. Operations were suspended at San Cristóbal mine.
Bolivia's health minister Marcelo Navajas has been arrested on suspicion of corruption related to the over-priced purchase of ventilators to fight COVID-19. Bolivia bought 179 ventilators from a Spanish manufacturer for $27,683 each, costing almost $5 million. It later transpired that the manufacturer was offering ventilators for 9,500-11,000 euros each ($10,312-$11,941).
In May, key witness, businessman Luis Fernando Humérez, was taken into preventive custody following communications he made with legal director of the Ministry of Health, Fernando Val
In May, key witness, businessman Luis Fernando Humérez, was taken into preventive custody following communications he made with legal director of the Ministry of Health, Fernando Valenzuela seeking "a way out". Humérez was able to connect for prosecutors, the health minister to Iñaqui García, a representative of the respirator supplier, GPA Innova, among others. Prosecutors for the case also demonstrated multiple calls between Evo Morales and Humérez intermingled with conversations with other defendants. However, Humérez claims these conversations were only to pacify tensions in the country. With over 2 dozen calls between Humérez and masista leaders, including Morales and Orlando Zurita, prosecutors Arturo has postulated this may be less a controversy of corruption, and one of conspiracy against the current government. In addition to Humérez, Valenzuela, Giovani Pacheco, the director of the agency tasked with procuring medical equipment, as well as two Inter-American Development Bank advisors have been arrested.
Despite these arrests, the Bolivian mixed commission of investigation continues to search for reasons that explain how this could have happened, and has issued summons across levels of the Bolivian government. Among those asked for there testimony are Bolivian Minister Karen Longaric and Harvard scientist, Mohammed Mostajo-Radji, the Bolivian Ambassador for Science, Innovation, and Technology to the UN. While, no criminal charges were levied against Mostajo-Radji, inconsistencies between his earlier testimony where he claimed complete ignorance of the purchase, and public statements in April where he claimed responsibility for overseeing the purchases of the respirators led prosecutors to ask for further information. However, in spite of these calls from prosecutors, and the continuing pandemic, Mostajo-Radji left Bolivia for the United States in June 2020 and has yet to testify. Allies of Evo Morales accused the interim president of protecting the young scientist who was rumored to be involved with Áñez's daughter; allegations which both Áñez and Mostajo-Radji deny.
In August 2020, it was revealed that an additional 324 respirators, purchased from China through Amgen were also bought with a surchage ($35,000 for machines that cost $18,000) and contained numerous defects. In response, the prosecutor's office announced investigations into both the ambassador, Mostajo-Radji, as well as the Minister of Health, Eidy Roca. Unlike the Spanish respirators, these were part of the 500 Mostajo-Radji had announced in April were purchased by Bolivia.