Daily virus case drop is reason for ‘cautious optimism’; Cuenca count; Deaths among Guayaquil city workers; Mask price gouging

Mar 30, 2020 | 5 comments

Medical experts are cautiously optimistic that Ecuador’s restriction on personal movement is slowing the spread of the coronavirus. Sunday’s new case total of 89 was the lowest since March 18, following Saturday’s count of 208.

“It is far too early to establish a trend — and Sunday’s 89 cases may be an outlier — but we are seeing signs that provide some hope,” says Elton Mendez, an infectious disease specialist in Quito. “The country’s daily count hit a high point on March 22 at 257 and the numbers have averaged under 200 a day since then. We are very short on data, of course, because of the lack of testing but the official numbers provide a general gauge of where we stand and where we may be headed.”

Julio Lopez, vice minister of health, was also optimistic as he delivered the latest numbers on Sunday. “Certainly, things are looking a little better over the past week but we are in the early stages of the pandemic and I don’t want to read too much into one or two day’s numbers.”

The Sunday Ministry of Health report counted a total of 1,924 cases of Covid-19 with the death toll rising to 58. More than 70 percent of the country’s cases are in Guayas Province. Azuay Province reports 53 cases with 46 in Cuenca, three in Santa Isabel and two each in Paute and Gualeceo.

The ministry reports that 2,835 suspected cases remain under direct observation while 1,596 people have been ordered to quarantine at home.

12 Covid-19 deaths reported among Guayaquil city employees and families
Guayaquil Mayor Cynthia Viteri said Sunday night that there have been 12 coronavirus deaths among municipal employees and their immediate families. Viteri, who has herself tested positive for the virus and is in quarantine, said “the reality of this terrible disease is hitting close to home.” Her number of reported deaths has not been verified by the ministry of health. Guayaquil is the epicenter of Ecuador’s outbreak, reporting more than 70 percent of all cases.

IESS mask purchase halted on price-gouging concerns
President of the Social Security Institute (IESS) Paúl Granda cancelled an order for thousands of N95 face masks Saturday, claiming the vendor had increased the price by 300 percent over previous orders. “I have turned the matter over to the attorney general to investigate irregularities in the purchase process,” he said. He added that investigators will also look into the process at IESS to determine if employees were involved in fraudulent activity. On the halted purchase, the masks were prices at $12 while they were $4 previously.

Government defers taxes for most businesses
The Ministry of Finance announced Saturday that VAT and income tax payments have been deferred for six months for businesses registered in Ecuador. The ministry says it is working on special arrangements to preserve the employment of workers who are unable to come to work.

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