Ecuador’s health ministry announced Wednesday that all travelers arriving from China, Italy, Iran and South Korea will be checked for coronavirus symptoms as they enter the country. Minister of Health Catalina Andramuño said that the checks, comprised of a body temperature test and observation by immigration officials, will apply to Ecuadorian citizens and residents as well as foreign nationals.
The testing program was announced following confirmation of South America’s first case of the coronavirus in Brazil and after other suspected cases were discovered in Chile, Paraguay and Argentina. Tests will be carried out at the international airports in Quito and Guayaquil, at border crossings with Peru and Colombia and at the cruise ship ports in Guayaquil and Manta.
Andramuño said that hospitals in Quito and Guayaquil have been designated to isolate suspected cases of the virus arriving by air. She added that $60 million has been designated to carry out the new procedures.
Paul Granda, president of Ecuador’s Social Security system (IESS), said that four other hospitals, including one in Cuenca, will be designated as coronavirus treatment centers in the coming weeks. “We are moving into preparation mode and will soon be operational,” he said. “We are being told by international health agencies that the virus is spreading rapidly and that it could soon become a pandemic. We are beginning specialized training of personnel at all our hospitals and clinics.”
Andramuño said that her office is in discussions with airline officials to assist in identifying at-risk passengers. “Flight attendants will be the first line of defense in spotting suspected cases of the virus and we are asking them to inform immigration officers, if necessary, as passengers deplane.” She added that special precautions are also being installed at the San Cristobal and Baltra airports in the Galapagos Islands since they receive large numbers of foreign tourists.
Minister of Ecuador Monserrat Creamer said that health protocols are being developed for the country’s public schools and will be in effect by next week. “We will be on the front lines of prevention if and when outbreaks occur,” he said. “Historically, schools are especially vulnerable to the spread of infectious diseases.”