Delta cases increase but Covid deaths drop, vaccines credited with decline; International air travel recovering; Palacios rejects 45-cent city bus fare

Aug 9, 2021 | 3 comments

Although the number of delta variant cases continues to rise, overall Covid-19 cases and deaths are dropping. Minister of Health Ximena Garzón said Saturday that delta cases now exceed 100 nationwide with new cases being reported in El Oro (4), Guayas (5) and Azuay (3) Provinces. “We continue to be concerned about delta but are encouragde by the general situation in the country regarding the virus. It is obvious that our vaccination program is having a positive impact, especially with the elderly and vulnerable populations and severe cases are declining.”

One expert says the best gauge of the improving pandemic outlook is the decline in excess deaths in Ecuador.

Garzón said that almost all new hospitalizations and deaths are among the unvaccinated population. “Our vaccine experience tracks well with that of other countries,” she says. “The worst cases we see involve people who have not been vaccinated or who have been vaccinated too recently for the shots to take effect. Within the last two weeks, we have had only one death of a person who was fully vaccinated.”

Quito tropical disease expert Jorge Ramos agrees that the vaccines are responsible for dropping cases. “At this point we should focus on extreme cases and deaths to get a true picture of the situation,” he says. “I believe we will see a rise in delta and possibly lambda cases, but it will be mostly among the younger, unvaccinated population. Instead of the official Covid death count, I think it is better to look at excess deaths since many Covid deaths are not diagnosed. The excess death rate is dropping and this is why we should be encouraged.”

International air travel is recovering
Ecuador’s General Aviation Directorate reports that 520,295 passengers arrived at the country’s two international airports between January and June. Although the total is only 30 percent of pre-pandemic levels, it represents a 80 percent increase over the second half of 2020. The directorate also reported that 55 percent of passengers entering the country in the first half of the year arrived in May and June. “The numbers from July and the first week of August reflect the growing trend and we expect to be at 75 percent of 2019 levels by the end of 2021.

Mayor Pedro Palacios

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As of the end of June, 52 international routes to Ecuador were operating, up from 24 at the beginning of the year. Airline representative say that much of the increase is due to Ecuadorians traveling to the U.S. for Covid-19 vaccines

National air travel is also recovering but remains 50 percent below 2019 levels. The country’s largest domestic carrier, Latam, has restarted 66 percent of its flights and expects to reestablish the rest by the end of 2021 or in early 2022. The airlines, which offers service to Quito, Cuenca, Guayaquil, Manta, Baltra, San Cristóbal and Coca, says its routes between Quito and Guayaquil and Cuenca and Quito are flying above 90 percent capacity.

Mayor rejects 45-cent bus fare, waits for federal fuel plan
Cuenca Mayor Pedro Palacios on Saturday called “absurd” the proposal by city bus operators to raise fares to 45 cents. “This no time to raise prices given the pandemic and the economic crisis,” he said. “We understand that every penny in the pockets or our citizens is critically important.”

The mayor added that the city is waiting for the national government’s program of fuel cost relief for public bus companies. “I talked to President Lasso last week and he assured me that this will implanted very soon,” Palacios said. “Until then, our hands are tied since the increased fuel cost is the biggest economic burden for bus owners. Fuel costs have gone up by almost 50 percent due to the government’s decision to eliminate the subsidy for diesel and gasoline and the city has no control of this.”

Palacios said he is sympathetic to the financial strains on bus owners. “Their ridership has dropped and fuel costs have gone up. Like most of us in these difficult times, they are suffering like the rest of us.”

310,000 report vaccinations overseas
From June until August 4, 310,000 Ecuadorians who were vaccinated overseas against the Covid-19 virus have reported their status to the national vaccination website. The Ministry of Health believes that about 800,000 have received vaccinations overseas, most of them in the United States, and is appealing to others to sign up. “We want to everyone who is vaccinated, including those who take their shots in other countries, to report since we are counting it in the 9/100 [nine million vaccines in 100 days] statistics,” a health ministry advisory said. The ministry believes that about 30,000 foreign residents are among those vaccinated overseas.

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