Ecuador’s number of confirmed Covid-19 cases dropped by more than 2,400 from Tuesday to Wednesday but the Health Ministry says it does not reflect any change in the spread of the virus. “This was a clerical error and it has been corrected,” said Deputy Minister of Health Xavier Solórzano when he announced that the official case count has dropped from 31,881 to 29,420.
“In reviewing our records, we discovered that a large number of cases had been counted twice due to data processing errors,” Solórzano said. “This is a one-time problem based on technological limitations and will not be repeated.”
The deputy minister said that the country is approaching a peak number of cases and that the medical system continues to function well. “We have flattened the curve in the case trend which means we have the capacity to offer services to those who need them most. Hospitals in cities such as Quito, Cuenca and Riobamba have excess capacity and all the supplies they need,” Solórzano said.
He added that new broad-spectrum “quick testing” is providing valuable data about the spread of the virus through the population. “We see where we stand on a city by city and province by province basis which is important for making decisions to relax health emergency rules.”
In a Wednesday night interview on a Quito television station, epidemiologist and former health ministry director Elton Mendez agreed with the government that the “curve is flattening” but cautioned against reopening the country too soon. “We still have a few weeks to go and need to keep most restrictions in place but we are making progress,” he said.
Mendez said the actual number of infections could be as high as one million, with a death count of 20,000. “These are not official numbers, of course, but the health ministry does not disagree since it has been severely limited in the number of tests it can administer. Like the rest of the world, it will be months and probably years before we have an accurate computation of cases and deaths from the pandemic.”
Univ. of Cuenca students protest budget cuts
About 30 University of Cuenca students carried signs and banged pots Wednesday morning outside the gobernacion building on Parque Calderon to protest a proposed five percent cut to university budgets. The demonstration was peaceful although police pushed back the protesters on several occasions to keep Calle Simon Bolivar open to traffic and warned participants to maintain two meters of social distancing. The national ombudsman office announced Wednesday afternoon that it will sue the government if it proceeds with the cuts, claiming the would be a violation of the students’ human rights.
The Ministry of Finance announced the budget cuts last week, saying they are required because of the Covid-19 crisis and the collapse of international oil prices.
Government suspends the sale of Weir antibacterial gels
The National Agency for Health Regulation and Control (ARCSA) has temporarily banned the sale of Weir brand antibacterial gels and sprays. ARCSA says that laboratory tests show that Weir products do not contain the ethanol alcohol content stated on the product labels which is necessary for killing fungi, bacteria, and viruses. The products must contain a minimum of 62 percent alcohol to be effective, the agency said, and samples tested fell below that level. ARCSA said it will retest Weir products in the future and allow them back on store shelves if they meet quality standards.
Moreno extends state of emergency
President Lenín Moreno announced Wednesday that the national health emergency will be extended for 30 days beyond May 16, when the current declaration ends. Two weeks ago, the president said he planned the extension but did not specify a duration. “This does not affect any changes to the rules and restrictions currently being considered,” he said. “It simply provides the government additional time, if necessary, to confront the health crisis.”
Churches plan late-May reopening
The Episcopal Conference of the Catholic church said Wednesday that it is making preparations to resume church services in late May. The conference said it will work with the government to conduct its services in a manner that does not threaten public health. “We will follow all orders of social distancing and abide by other guidelines suggested by the authorities,” the church said.