A day after reporting Ecuador’s first case of the Covid-19 coronavirus, Health Minister Catalina Andramuño announced Sunday that five new cases have been confirmed in Guayaquil and Babahoyo. She said the new cases are family members of the 71 year old woman who was diagnosed Friday night with the virus.
The new cases are “mild,” according to Andramuño. “Those infected are receiving timely treatment at home and we anticpate they will make full recoveries.”
The 71 year old woman, an Ecuadorian citizen who arrived in Ecuador February 14 from Spain to visit her family, is in critical condition in a Guayaquil hospital, according to doctors. Officials are not releasing the name of the patient or of the hospital where she is being treated.
“As soon as we confirmed the case, we began the process of contacting the 288 passengers who arrived with the victim on the flight from Madrid as well as more than 100 others that have had contact with her before she was diagnosed,” Andramuño said. “This is how we determined that the family members had been infected. We are continuing our search for others who may also have contracted the virus.”
Andramuño said that the health ministry has contacted officials in Spain since the victim had been living in that country before she traveled to Ecuador.
According to Dr. Leopoldo Izquieta of Ecuador’s National Institute of Public Health, the victim reported feeling fine when she arrived at Guayaquil’s José Joaquín de Olmedo airport but developed a high fever and other flu-like symptons several days later and was hospitalized.
Ecuador is the third Latin American country to confirm cases of Covid-19, along with Brazil and Mexico.
Following confirmation of the first case on Saturday, the government has ordered a ban on large mass gatherings in Guayaquil and Babahoyo, the city the infected 71-year-old was visiting. Saturday night’s football game between Barcelona SC and Liga Portoviejo was played in an empty stadium in Guayaquil.
Ecuador virus update
Hotline for suspected cases
The Ministry of Health has established a telephone hotline for Ecuadorians who think they may have contracted the Covid-19 virus. Those with a cough, fever and respiratory problems can call 171 for a telephone consultation that will assess the seriousness of the symptoms. In some cases, health workers will refer callers to one of the country’s 15 designated virus treatment centers. Locally, those centers are in Cuenca and Azogues.
New procedures at airports
The international airports in Guayaquil and Quito have instituted new procedures as a result of the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak, including the application of new cleaning and disinfecting standards in public areas and increased observation of arriving and departing passengers. Ministry of Health officials will take an infrared temperature reading of passengers arriving from Mexico, Spain, Egypt, China, Korea, Italy and Iran and arrivals from other countries may be checked as necessary. Health workers are being assigned to 12-hour shifts at the two airports. As of Monday morning, airport administrators in Guayaquil and Quito said that all flights were operating normally.
Supply shortages, arrests for ‘gouging’
Shortages of various medical and household supplies were reported around the country on Sunday. Among the items in short supply at supermarkets and pharmacies were disinfecting hand gels and lotions, face masks as well as some household disinfectants. Some supermarkets and tiendas reported a run on toilet paper. National Police in Guayaquil reported they had made six arrests in connection with street sales of face masks at double and triple the normal price.
Schools are open in the sierra
The Ministry of Education announced Sunday that all public schools would operate normally in the sierra. Schools on the coast are on vacation.
The Ministry of Health officials said they will meet Monday to reassess requirements for the use of face masks. The World Health Organization and other international health advisory groups, are recommending against the use of masks by the public, saying they are not effective in stopping the spread of Covid-19. Experts recommend that health workers wear high quality masks, such as the N95, which are generally unavailable in retail outlets.