Optimism that the spread of the Covid-19 virus was slowing in Ecuador was dashed Tuesday as the country recorded its highest single-day infection rate yet. The count of 336 followed those of 89 and 42 on Sunday and Monday.
Health Minister Juan Carlos Zevallos offered no explanation for the spike at his news conference but other health experts say it is the result insufficient testing. “When you rely on the results of less than 10,000 tests in a country of 16 million that does not offer a very accurate sample,” said Quito epidemiologist Elton Mendez. “Obviously, the case reports on Sunday and Monday were based on a small number of tests whereas Tuesday’s result was based on many more. More tests mean more positive results.”
On Monday, several officials, including Interior Minister Maria Romo said the lower case numbers were encouraging. Romo even suggested that emergency restrictions could be relaxed in the coming weeks.
Zevallos reported that the virus fatality count had reached 79 and that Guayas Province continues to lead the country in cases, with 66 percent of the total. He also reported that 48 patients have recovered from the virus and now test negative.
Of the 77 people infected in Azuay Province, 67 are in Cuenca, three each are in Gualaceo, Santa Isabel and Paute and one is in Sígsig.
According to Mendez, who was a consultant to former Health Minister Catalina Andramuño, the government is failing to provide a useful analysis of the health crisis. “All they are giving us are the numbers and on a day like [Tuesday] when there is a huge increase, people would like an official explanation of what the experts believe is happening,” he says. “Zevallos is a smart man who understands epidemics but he is providing no context about how the outbreak is progressing. What we need is an Ecuadorian version of Dr. [U.S. expert Anthony] Fauci to explain things to us.”
Mendez adds that Tuesday’s rate of new cases tells us at least one thing: “We have not yet reached a peak. I still believe that Ecuador did the right thing by imposing restrictions early and I believe this will pay off in the end. But I am very worried about the lack of testing — this would give us information that we obviously do not have now.”
Government to crack down on fake news
The government said Monday that it is monitoring print and electronic media as well as social media for erroneous information it says could be harmful to the public. “Fake news is a real threat during a health crisis,” says Juan F. Guerrero, consultant and constitutional expert. “If people act on information about miracle cures, for example, they can become ill and even die. The same is true about social media rumors about government policies and regulations related to the outbreak,” he says. According to the attorney general’s office, those arrested and convicted of spreading fake news can be imprisoned for up to five years.
26 mayors have Covid-19, 12 of them in Guayas Province
Twenty-six Ecuadorian mayors have tested positive for the Covid-19 virus, including 12 in Guayas Province. The count does not include Jorge Washington Orlando, deputy mayor of Salitre, who died of the virus last week. Among the Guayas mayors who have tested positive are Cynthia Viteri of Guayaquil, Juan José Yúnez of Samborondón, Kleber Falcón of Yaguachi and Paco Asán of Milagro. Most the afflicted mayors around the country have mild cases and are working from home quarantine but six are reported too sick to carry out official functions.