Despite Omicron, Covid deaths are at pandemic lows; Anti-Lasso protests postponed; Gov’t to audit judges’ assets; Inflation rises, still lowest in Latin America
During the first two weeks of 2022, deaths from Covid-19 have dropped to their lowest level since late March 2020. According to the Ministry of Health, the country is registering 1.6 virus deaths per 1,000 positive cases. In contrast, the death count was 43 per 1,000 in April 2021.
The Ministry credited the improvement to the country’s high vaccination rate, which it says stands at 80 percent, with some areas, such as Cuenca and Quito, registering rates approaching 90 percent. “There is no doubt the vaccines have saved lives and continue to protect us during the Omicron surge,” says Health Minister Ximena Garzón. “The variant is infecting both the vaccinated and the unvaccinated but the severity of infection is much worse for the unvaccinated.”
She added that of the 2,450 currently hospitalized with Covid, about 80 percent are unvaccinated.
Since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, there have been 24,281 confirmed Covid deaths with another 9,908 listed as probable.
Anti-government protests postponed by Omicron
The United Workers’ Front (FUT) has postponed its January 19 anti-government protest due to the health threat of the Covid-19 Omicron variant. “We are postponing the mobilization and will announce a new date once the current contagion subsides,” FUT President Ángel Sánchez, said Friday. “It would be counter-productive to expose our members and supporters to infection at this time.”
FUT protest partner, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (Conaie), also announced to its members that the protest would be delayed.
According to Sánchez, the postponement does not mean that FUT has changed its opposition to the government of President Guillermo Lasso. “We will continue our battle to reduced fuel prices, to restore funding to the Social Security system and to oppose the president’s labor proposals.”
Government to check judges’ assets
In response to the U.S. announcement that it is cancelling the travel visas of “several” Ecuadorian judges, the Comptroller General has ordered an audit of bank accounts and other financial assets of all judges. The audit is similar that that carried out last month of military officers after the U.S. canceled the visas of more than 100 officers and their family members.
“We are very concerned about the actions of the U.S. government and what it might indicate about our judiciary,” Interim Comptroller Carlos Riofrío said Thursday. “Judges hold positions of the highest trust and questions about their integrity deserves a thorough investigation.”
The Interior Ministry has asked the U.S. Embassy for information about the visa cancellations but has so far received no response. In its statement regarding the revocation of visas, the Embassy said it is U.S. policy not to release names or reasons for cancellations.
Inflation rises but is still the lowest in Latin America
Ecuador registered its highest inflation rate in four years but still ranks lowest among all Latin American countries. According the Central Bank, the 1.94 percent rise in the Consumer Price Index for 2021 is “good news” considering the economic disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to the National Institute of Statistics, the sectors seeing the highest rates of inflation in 2021 were were transportation, food and education.
Among the country’s three regions, the sierra had a highest inflation, at 2.1 percent. Cities with the highest rates were Santo Domingo at 3.16 percent, Cuenca at 3.08 percent and Manta at 2.8 percent.