Health Minister Ximena Garzón said Tuesday night that the first case of the omicron variant of the Covid-19 virus has been confirmed in Ecuador. A 48-year-old Ecuadorian man returning from South Africa, via Panama, is being quarantined at a hotel near the Quito airport after testing positive for the variant.
According to Garzón, the man has mild symptoms and is not expected to require hospital treatment. She said the patient developed a low fever and “cold-like” symptoms on the flight from Panama to Quito.
The health minister said the man, an agricultural engineer, had traveled to South Africa on business with two associates who tested negative for Covid at the airport. The man had been vaccinated but had not received a booster shot, she said.
The man’s associates plus the other 148 passengers on the flight are under quarantine and being monitored by medical personnel. Test results for the passengers were being processed late Tuesday.
According to the World Health Organization, omicron causes milder illness than previous Covid-19 variants but spreads at a faster rate. As of Tuesday morning, 89 countries had reported at least one case of omicron but the WHO says it is probably in many more.
Tuesday morning, Ecuador’s national Emergency Operations Committee announced new Covid-19 restrictions, including limiting public holiday events and mandating proof of vaccination for indoor activities that are under capacity restrictions. The vaccine mandate affects restaurants, shopping centers and church services.
According to COE president Juan Zapata, one the COE’s primary concerns is the omicron variant, which he said would soon arrive in Ecuador.