The Cuenca Municipal Health Council says it is “highly alarmed” by the rapid rise in positive Covid-19 tests in recent weeks and says it may recommend changes to local health policy.
Health council advisor and medical researcher Bernardo Vega said Wednesday that there were 479 positive PCR tests during the week of June 27 to July 3, with 267 of those being active infections. “Of all the tests administered and reported last week, 42 percent of them showed positive results,” he said. “In the last week of April, the positivity rate was 3 percent so you can understand that we are concerned.”
Vega said the rise in positive tests and Covid-19 cases is happening throughout Ecuador, not just in Cuenca. “This is not only a national trend but an international one as well,” he said. “It is understandable since many health precautions and requirements have been abandoned in recent months. In Europe, some rules, such as those for masking, social distancing and vaccines, are being reinstituted and Ecuador needs to consider this too.”
He added that the World Health Organization recommends maintaining health restrictions until the positive test rate drops to 5 percent or lower.
National Emergency Operations Committee President Juan Zapata said Tuesday that the COE will meet this week to consider the situation. On Monday, the local COE in Guayaquil voted to continue that city’s masking requirement due to rising positive tests and infections.
Epidemiologist Andrea Gómez believes the positive test rate in Cuenca would be even higher if testing was more comprehensive. “At this point, we are only giving 3.8 tests for 100 people when we need to give 10 to get an accurate picture,” she says, adding that the public has a “false sense of security” due to the mild effects of the Covid-19 Omicron variants. “They have dropped their guard and that is why cases are rising again. I believe we are facing a new wave of Covid and must prepare for it.”
She recommends the reinstatement of face mask requirements and vaccine card checks at indoor businesses and public events.
Vega says that the increase in infections had not, so far, resulted in an increase in hospitalizations or deaths. “Omicron is not as severe as the earlier versions of Covid, such as Delta, so we are not yet experiencing the burden on the health system. Almost half of the positive tests are of people who do not show symptoms. On the other hand, if cases continue to rise and new subvariants emerge, this could change.”