Ecuador has the highest Covid-19 fatality rate in South America and ranks near the bottom among the region’s countries in testing. According to two Cuenca-based researchers, these facts should set off alarm bells about the government’s response to the pandemic.
“Community transmission continues, and is increasing is some areas, and because of inadequate testing it is hard to have a realistic picture of where we stand in combating the coronavirus,” says Andrea Gómez, researcher and public health doctoral student. “Ecuador has administered less than 285,000 tests while Chile, a country with a similar population, has administered 1.8 million.”
Gómez adds that Ecuador’s 7.2 percent fatality rate, third highest in the Western Hemisphere, is the result of the low number of tests. “The high death rate is probably because most of those tested are sick but we can’t be sure until we do more testing that includes healthy as well as sick people.”
Data presented by Gómez and University of Cuenca biologist and geoinformation specialist Daniel Orellana are bolstering a rising tide of criticism of the government’s handling of the health crisis by private health practitioners and researchers.
Gómez and Orellana are gathering publicly available data they say has not been widely disseminated by the government. “An important number that most people are unaware of is that 42.2 percent of those taking Covid tests in Ecuador receive positive results,” Orellana says. “The World Health Organization advises that testing positivity above 10 percent indicates the virus is spreading. For comparison purposes, Argentina currently has a positivity rate of 18 percent and Chile’s is 21 percent.”
As with the fatality rate, Orellana says the low number of tests in Ecuador skews the positivity rate higher.
There is some good news in the data for Cuenca and Azuay Province, Gómez says. “Based on the limited testing, Azuay’s fatality rate is about 3 percent, less than half of the national average,” she says. “The positivity testing rate is also less, about half of the national average.”