VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has sent four ventilators to hospitals in Colombia after the South American country recorded its highest daily death rate since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the Colombian health ministry, the country reported 420 deaths from COVID-19 in 24 hours April 20. More than 68,700 people have died from COVID-19 in Colombia since February 2020. The country has a population of 50 million people.

The donated ventilators from Pope Francis were also accompanied by boxes of personal protective equipment. The Colombian bishops’ conference said that the apostolic nuncio sent the medical equipment to hospitals in Quibdó, western Colombia.

The equipment was flown into the city with the help of the Colombian Air Force and the Military Ordinariate of Colombia.

Bishop Juan Carlos Barreto Barreto of Quibdó wrote in a note: “This gesture highlights the continuous solicitude of Pope Francis for Colombia in many areas and expresses his concern for all the Churches.”

During the coronavirus outbreak, Pope Francis has donated ventilators and other medical equipment to countries such as Brazil, Spain, and Romania.

In South America, fears are growing over the spread of the P.1 variant of COVID-19, also known as the Brazil variant, which recent research suggests is much more transmissible.

In March, Peru’s health minister said that 40% of cases in the capital city of Lima were caused by the Brazil variant. Cases of the new variant have also been detected in Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Venezuela, and Argentina.