With new outbreaks of the coronavirus in Europe, the Middle East and Korea, Ecuador officials say they are preparing for a “worst case scenario.” On Monday morning, the World Health Organization said that the pandemic appeared poised for “an explosion” of new cases.
Ecuador Minister of Health Catalina Andramuño said she is calling meetings with officials from around the country to prepare for the arrival of the virus to Ecuador. “Like everyone, we were hoping that the disease would be contained in China but it appears that is not the case and we are making preparations for its spread to Ecuador,” she said Sunday. “We believe we have a few weeks to prepare but this can change suddenly.”
Andramuño said that the country has hundreds of kits to test for the virus and will be able to make diagnoses within two days, unlike the suspected case of a Chinese national in January that was not confirmed as negative for more than a week. “By international protocol, since it was our first suspected case, that test had to be processed through the U.S. Center for Disease Control,” she said.
The Chinese patient later died in a Quito hospital of other causes.
The health ministry says that it working with managers of the national health system as well as with local governments on preparations for a major outbreak. “It is too early to know how this will develop but we believe it is coming and we are making plans,” Andramuño said. “Our goal is to be as prepared as possible given that we are facing the unknown.”
Also over the weekend, government officials warned in television interviews that the spread of the coronavirus could have a devastating impact on the country’s economy. “The effect could be devastating worldwide, not just in Ecuador, but we must be prepared for major disruptions in trade and tourism and other economic sectors,” said Finance Minister Richard Martínez. “If the virus becomes a true pandemic, there will probably be a worldwide recession.”
On Monday morning, international stock markets opened sharply lower in reaction to weekend reports of new coronavirus outbreaks.