Ecuador is a tale of two outbreaks, health minister says, but relief is on the way; Jaime Nebot rejects Moreno’s tax plan as ‘absurd’

Apr 14, 2020 | 41 comments

Minister of Health Juan Carlos Zevallos said Monday that the Covid-19 virus is playing out in two different scenarios in Ecuador. “What we see in Guayaquil is very different than what we see in the rest of the country,” he said. “The good news is that we are approaching a peak in both instances and improvement will follow.”

Minister of Health Juan Carlos Zevallos

In morning radio interview, Zevallos said that several factors led to the “terrible outcome” in Guayaquil and Guayas Province. “First, this was where the pandemic entered the country had a head start in terms of becoming established,” he said. “It spread before we installed the controls and protocols that have limited spread in other parts of the country. Then, after social distancing controls were ordered, they were ignored in large areas of the city and province, allowing the disease to expand at a rapid rate.”

Zevallos continued that there are local factors that are partly responsible for the lack of compliance in Guayaquil. “The weather is very hot there this time of year and many of the poor people live under metal roofs without air conditioning. It is very difficult for them to stay indoors when the temperature is 35 degrees (95 Farenheit).”

Like other officials, Zevallos said international news coverage of the situation in Guayaquil included glaring inaccuracies. “The number of bodies on the street was vastly overstated for impact and the fact that most deaths were the result of causes other than Covid-19 was not clarified. It is a tragic situation and this cannot be denied. The lack of response of the mortuary industry and misplacement of bodies in morgues is inexcusable. On the other hand, much of what has happened there is the result of fear that has spread far beyond the impact of the disease.”

He added that the Covid-19 situation outside of Guayas Province is under control. “The compliance with rules have been good and the number of serious cases have been manageable for local health systems. And, as I said, we were able to get ahead of the outbreak in most of the country and this made a significant difference in outcome.”

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Zevallos said his office is continuing to focus on Quito and Cuenca as well as Los Ríos, Tungurahua. Manabí and Esmeraldas Provinces. “This is no time to let down our guard and we are monitoring several areas very closely to maintain containment,” he said.

In an afternoon newspaper interview, Zevallos said the country will see a “leveling of the curve” of new cases this week or next and a slow return to normal activity. “There are established trajectories of epidemic curves and we are seeing that now in Ecuador. Once we begin the downward trend there will be a gradual relaxation of controls on personal freedoms. We all want to get back to normal.”

Virus update

Nebot rejects taxes for Covid-19 relief
Leader of Ecuador’s Social Christian Party and as-yet an undeclared candidate for president, former Guayaquil mayor Jaime Nebot has attacked President Lenin Moreno’s plan to raise taxes on workers and businesses. “Yes, we need money to fight Covid-19, but it is absurd to try to extract money from businesses and people who cannot sell their products or earn a paycheck. Solidarity yes, taxes no.” Nebot suggested he might organize a campaign for a national referendum if the government’s tax plan is passed by the National Assembly. “What we need now are level heads and common sense to manage this crisis.”

New Covid-19 cases drop
The health ministry reported only 63 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 on Monday, one the lowest one-day increases in three weeks. The death toll rose to 355.

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