Once Latin America’s coronavirus hotspot, Ecuador now appears to be leading the region out of the first wave of outbreaks. With the contagion trendline spiking higher in Brazil, Peru, Chile, Colombia and Mexico, Ecuador is beginning to relax some of the lockdown restrictions while other countries are intensifying theirs.
Although it’s good news that Ecuador is “flattening of the curve”, the country’s fate is, unfortunately, tied to that of other Latin American countries, health and business experts warn. “We are concerned of a spill-over effect from Peru and Colombia as conditions in those countries deteriorate,” says Ecuador Health Minister Juan Carlos Zevallos. “Even though the borders are closed, there is a certain amount of passage between countries that we cannot control and this can introduce new cases.”
Zevallos cautions that Ecuador is not yet out of the woods. “We have reached a peak and will see our virus numbers trend down in the near future but we must remember that this is probably the first of several outbreaks. For the disease to die out, we will need to reach a 70 to 80 percent infection and recovery rate and we are currently at only 5 to 10 percent.” He adds that there is no “magic bullet” cure on the horizon and vaccines for the general public will not be available for at least a year.
In addition to health concerns, there are also regional business and transportation issues that will effect Ecuador. “As the Covid-19 news from South America gets worse, there will be a number of negative impacts on us,” says Jorge Castro, a business professor at San Francisco University in Quito. “We heard this week that the U.S. may impose a travel ban on the entire region and I’m afraid that the European Union will do the same. As the rest of the world resumes international air travel it could be two or three more months before Ecuador and the rest of South America can do the same.”
Castro adds that cross-border transport of goods is also a problem. “Because of the high infection rates in Peru, Chile and now in Colombia, more precautions will be required until those rates drop. This will increase costs and slow down shipments.”
As of Friday, Ecuador had 35,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases, most of them recovered, while Brazil has 348,000, Peru 113,000 and Chile 63,000, all spiking rapidly higher. Colombia only counts 20,000 but it will overtake Ecuador next week if the currenty trend continues.