President Lenín Moreno declared a national health emergency Wednesday night, saying the action was in response to the elevation of the coronavirus to pandemic status by the World Health Organization (WHO). The declaration gives the government extra authority to take action it considers necessary to protect public health, including limiting the size of mass gatherings and restricting travel.
Effective immediately, the president said that all air passengers arriving from Italy, Spain, South Korea, Japan and China will be required to remain in home isolation for seven to 14 days, based on recommendations from the WHO. Other measures ordered under the decree are a legal prohibition of exporting face masks, disinfecting gels and anti-bacterial soap manufactured in the country and rules for local governments to disinfect public transport vehicles and to control the size of public events.
Moreno also ordered special care for older adults and those with disabilities and chronic and catastrophic illnesses. “Due to their increased risk from the virus, we will take extra precautions with our older and sick citizens, following WHO protocols,” he said.
He added that additional health guidelines and rules will be issued on Thursday and Friday.
Covid-19 cases hold steady at 17
No new cases of the coronavirus have been reported since Tuesday, when two additional cases were confirmed. To date, Ecuador counts 17 cases, 15 of which are associated with an infected woman who arrived by air from Spain February 14.
The Ministry of Health says it is providing special training for health workers at the 22 hospitals designated to treat coronavirus patients. “We are developing a screening process that guarantees that only the most severe cases are treated at hospitals,” says health minister Catalina Andramuño. “The emphasis will be on home treatment that is coordinated through online resources.”
The ministry says that 153 people, mostly in Guayaquil, Babahoyo and Quito, remain in quarantine and under observation.
Coronavirus not covered by private health insurance
The executive director of the Ecuadorian Federation of Insurance Companies, Patricio Salas, said Wednesday that his members are not required to cover medical costs for those who contract the coronavirus. “This exclusion is based on international health insurance standards that recognize that a pandemic, declared by the World Health Organization, is an extraordinary event that is the responsibility of governments,” he said. “Because of their scope and severity, the costs of covering pandemic cases could easily bankrupt insurance companies.”
Brazil overtakes Ecuador for most coronavirus cases
As of Thursday morning, Brazil reports 32 cases of the coronavirus, replacing Ecuador for the most cases in Latin America. Ecuador has 17.
Ecuadorian students return from China virus-free
The ministry of health reports that the five Ecuadorian students evacuated from Wuhan, China last month are back home and have been ruled free of the virus. The students were quarantined in the Ukraine for 14 days.