Covid cases, deaths, are their lowest since April; Tourism enjoys best weekend in months; Sunny, dry weather persists, worrying farmers and firefighters

Oct 12, 2020 | 21 comments

The Ministry of Health on Sunday reported the lowest number of new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in more than five months, as well as the lowest death count. In its daily epidemiological report, the ministry said there were 205 new cases and three deaths.

A restaurant on San Sebastian Plaza in Cuenca filled its outdoor tables on Saturday.

“We are seeing more and more signs that we have turned the corner in our fight against Covid,” said Health Minister Juan Carlos Zevallos. “This does not mean we can relax our vigilance since many of our health facilities remain at or near capacity, most of them due to the influx of non-Covid cases.”

He explained that many people suffering from other diseases are now seeking treatment. “An unfortunate side-effect of the pandemic is that patients suffering from illnesses such as diabetes, heart and respiratory disease were fearful of seeking attention and are now more comfortable going to hospitals and clinics. Many of the excess deaths we have recorded are a result of delayed treatment.”

According to the ministry, there have been 147,033 confirmed cases of Covid since the outbreak began in February and 7,949 deaths. Officials say that more than 90 percent of confirmed cases have recovered.

Among cities, Quito reports the most infections with 42,155 followed by Guayaquil with 14,232, Cuenca with 7,619, Loja with 4,425, Santo Domingo with 4,220, Ambato with 3,691 and Portoviejo with 3,149. The ministry says the fatality rate continues to be dramatically lower in the sierra than at lower elevations.

Businesses enjoy best weekend in months
Ecuador’s hotels and restaurants report their highest weekend sales since March as hundreds of thousands of tourists took to the highways during the three-day Guayaquil independence holiday. “After months of health restrictions, Ecuadorians are eager to get out and enjoy themselves and regain their normal lives,” a spokesman for the national hotel association said Sunday. “We have a long way to go in overcome Covid-19 but we believe we are on the road to recovery.”

Some hotels on the coast said they were at full capacity Thursday through Sunday as beaches in Manabi, Esmeraldas and Santa Elena Provinces welcomed thousands of tourists. In Santa Elena, local authorities opened bars and discotheques for the first time in seven months. In addition to the coast, Quito, Cuenca and Baños de Ambato, were the top destinations for tourists according to the Tourism Ministry.

Unseasonable dry, sunny weather to continue
It was another dry, sunny day for most of Ecuador’s inter-mountain valley on Sunday, the result of a weather pattern that meteorologists say will continue for the foreseeable future.

According to National Institute of Meteorology forecaster Vladimir Arreaga, the rainy season has been delayed by a persistent high pressure system covering much of northwestern South America. “Under normal conditions, we would expect more clouds and showers in early October,” he says. “This year, however, we are experiencing dry conditions due to the unusual weather pattern and this is giving us intense sunshine, low morning temperatures and high afternoon temperatures.”

Arreaga said that major cities in the sierra all reported high levels of ultraviolet radiation over the weekend and urged residents to take precautions. “We have recorded extreme UV readings in Quito, Cuenca and Ambato and other locations so outdoor exposure should be limited.”

Meanwhile, farmers worry about the late arrival of the rainy season. “Some crops have already been planted and more will be planted in the coming weeks,” said an Agriculture Ministry official. “This is done in anticipation of rain and if it doesn’t arrive within a week or two farmers will face financial loses.”

Emergency operations officials say the dry weather is causing an increase in wildfires, with more than a dozen fires continuing to burn in several mountain provinces.