Country records 26,000 excess deaths in 2020; New Rio Tomebamba park opens; National budget takes big hit from the pandemic; Border reopening plan
Ecuador’s Civil Registry reports 26,000 more deaths through November 2020 than for the same period in 2019. Although many of the excess deaths can be attributed to the Covid-19 virus, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health says she believes it is less than half of the total.
“We have seen an increase in most categories for causes of death, including heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes,” she said. “There has also been a surge in suicides since March. The coronavirus may be a factor in many of these deaths due to delays in patients seeking care and treatment but this remains to be statistically proven.”
Officially, the government says there have been 13,371 deaths from the Covid virus.
More than half of Ecuador’s excess deaths were recorded in Guayas Province, which saw the country’s worst Covid outbreak in April and May. The Civil Registry reports 13,650 excess deaths in Guayas through the first 11 months of the year compared to 2019 while there were 2,800 more deaths in Pichincha Province, which reports the country’s most Covid infections. The health ministry says the high count in Guayas Province was due largely to a “collapse” of the health care system in Guayaquil, which delayed treatment for many Covid victims.
The ministry also says that altitude may play a role in the lower fatality rates in Quito, Cuenca, Riobamba and other cities in Ecuador’s sierra region. “There is strong circumstantial evidence that there are less deaths per capita from Covid at altitudes above 2,200 meters (7,200 feet) of elevation.
According to the ministry, the number of deaths recorded nationally since mid-October through shows no excess. “We have returned to the normal 2019 rate due to the efforts of citizens to control the spread of the virus,” the ministry said.
New Parque Los Eucaliptos opens to public
Cuenca’s newest park, Parque Los Eucaliptos, opened to the public on Friday. Located on the Rio Tomebamba near the Av. Las Americas and Azogues Autopista interchange, the park includes a 150-meter water mirror feature, a river overlook, gardens, walking trails and various recreational facilities including a children’s playground. Part of the city’s river greenway project, the park has an elevated walkway to the Hospital del Río.
2021 national budget takes a hit from the pandemic
The Ministry of Finance has reduced its estimate for the 2021 national budget from $35,498 billion to $32,530 billion. The ministry’s estimate will be sent to President Lenin Moreno and the National Assembly who will produce the final budget.
According to Finance Minister Mauricio Pozo, the budget reduction will be required because of to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. “We estimate that tax collections in 2021 will decline by $870 million and this may be an optimistic estimate,” he says. “The full extent of the economic damage will not be known until the second or even third quarter of 2021 and further budget cuts may be required.
In addition, Poza says low oil prices have taken a “massive toll” on revenues in 2020 and it is unclear if the price per barrel will rise substantially in 2021. From 2011 to 2015, royalties from oil production funded about 25 percent of the national budget, he said. “That total has dropped to a devastatingly low level. We had estimated a per barrel price of $52 for 2020 but the average has been $35.”
Pozo conceded that much of the budget reduction will be passed on to provincial, municipal and parochial governments. “The contraction will be felt severely downstream but we are looking for ways to lessen the impact,” he said.
Ecuador’s Central Bank predicts that the country’s GDP will contract nine percent in 2021.
Ecuador and Colombia consider border reopening
According to the presidents of Ecuador and Colombia, the opening of the border between the countries will be “gradual and progressive.” Heavy trucks moving goods are currently authorized to cross the border but movement of travelers remains restricted.
Colombian President Iván Duque and Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno have held several virtual meetings about the border and the two agreed Thursday to move “expeditiously” toward a full reopening. “The closing has inflicted great pain on businesses and individuals and we are moving as quickly as possible to restore normal passage,” Duque said. “The pandemic is on the decline in both countries but we understand that we must maintain the strict biosecurity measures that have brought us to this point.”
The governments of both countries are working to develop health protocols for buses and private vehicles and say these will be announced in December with a reopening of the border to be announced shortly thereafter.