Although Ecuador health officials are keeping a close watch on a new Covid-19 variant in South Africa, they say they still expect to reduce pandemic restrictions by the end of December. The national Emergency Operations Committee plans several meetings to evaluate pandemic conditions in the country and will issue its recommendations afterward.
Countries of the European Union and the United States are limiting air travel to and from parts of Africa where cases of the new coronavirus variant, Omicron, have emerged. The World Health Organization calls Omicron a variant “of concern” due to its complex molecular structure. Some researchers say the variant has the potential to partially evade protections from natural Covid infection and vaccines.
“We are following the information we receive about Omicron but we do not plan to take any action until we know more,” says Health Minister Ximena Garzón. “We are pleased with our progress in controlling Covid and believe our population is adequately protected against new variants.”
Consultant to the Health Ministry, Carlos Esposito, says he is not overly concerned about Omicron. “We have seen these variants come and go and I see no need for panic,” he says. “There have been two or three that have caused similar alarm after Delta and they did not replicate at a level to be a problem and have now died out.”
According to Esposito, different variants have widely varying impacts on different populations. “Delta proved to be deadly in Europe and North America but it had little impact in Ecuador other than frightening people into getting vaccinated,” he said. “So far, there are relatively few cases of Omicron and the cases have mostly been mild. It will be two or three weeks before we understand it and the danger is presents but I don’t expect it to become a major threat.”
Through vaccines and natural infection, Esposito believes Ecuador is well protected from Covid-19. “Based on the data I see, we have the highest percentage in the world for protecting the at-risk population – 96 percent vaccinated, at last count. I believe conditions will continue to improve here no matter what new variants come along.”