The impact of the Covid-19 virus in Quito and the rest of Ecuador’s sierra region is stable or trending downward, according to a research team at the Universidad de las Américas. “It is true that Quito has the highest number of infections in the country and this is cause for concern,” says research professor Raúl Fernández. “But the good news is that the number of hospitalizations and deaths is low. We see similar patterns throughout the inter-mountain valley, including in cities like Cuenca and Ambato.”
Fernández says he was “extremely concerned” following the high death toll in Guayaquil in April and May. “We all watched that with horror and feared we would see a similar event in Quito but it did not develop,” he says. “Our rate of severe cases and deaths is a fraction of that in Guayaquil.”
He has several ideas of why this is. “First, I think that people in the most vulnerable groups are doing a better job of protecting themselves. Second, some research shows that worldwide the virus is becoming less dangerous as it spreads through the population. Third, altitude appears to have a moderating effect for reasons we do not yet understand.”
Fernández warns that relying on statistics can be misleading. “Much of what you read in newspapers and on the internet causes unnecessary fear,” he says. “Everyday we learn that the total number of cases has increased but the fact that more than 95 percent of those have recovered is not reported. In fact, as pointed out by our health minister, the real number of infections may be as much as 50 times higher than those that are confirmed, but this too should not cause alarm. In fact, it is good that immunity is spreading through the country.”
Despite the good news, Fernández says that now is no time to let down our guard. “We have many months to go before we contain the contagion and it is important to maintain the biosecurity standards that have helped moderate the impact.”
Study shows minimal link of public transit and Covid spread
A study by the Ministry of Health indicates a low level of Covid-19 virus spread on public transportation in Quito and Cuenca. The study focused on contact tracing of hospital patients in the two cities. “As we identified the source of infections, we found it almost always came from contact with family and close friends in home or business settings, not from contact on buses and trains,” the study concluded. “Only four percent of those hospitalized with the virus had ridden public transportation within two months of becoming sick.” The study said that research showed that a low percentage of public transportation passengers are over the age of 75 or have serious complicating health factors.
Drones enforce social distancing at beaches
Ecuador’s 911 Emergency Service is using a fleet of drones to enforce social distancing at beaches in Guayas and Santa Elena Provinces. Overflights of popular beaches provide images showing when beach-goers are closer than two meters apart. Data from the flights creates a grid system that system specialists review for violations. The agency dispatches police to the beaches when it detects cases of non-compliance.