First Covid-19 case in Cuenca confirmed, mayor says public services will be maintained

Mar 15, 2020 | 4 comments

Cuenca’s first case of the Covid-19 coronavirus was confirmed Saturday by the Ministry of Health. The ministry says the victim, a 40-year-old woman, returned from Spain and Italy on March 3 and voluntarily submitted to medical testing.

Mayor Pedro Palacios

Authorities say the woman shows mild symptoms and is sheltering at home.

“We are pleased that she came to us on her own will to be tested,” said Julio Molina Vázquez of the Cuenca office of the health ministry. “She knew she was at risk because of her travel in Italy and Spain, countries with high rates of infection. She is in relatively good health and we expect she will make a full recovery.”

Vázquez said that more potential cases are under observation at Cuenca hospitals but offered few details.

Raul Moscoso, a medical consultant with the health ministry, said Saturday night that Cuenca residents should not assume there is only one case in the city. “Our testing is limited and we believe that there are many cases that are undetected. Residents should not drop their guard and should continue to follow virus protocols to reduce the spread.”

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Acknowledging that the coronavirus “has arrived in Cuenca,” Mayor Pedro Palacios declared a state of emergency Saturday. He said that most public services will continue as usual under the declaration. “During this difficult period it is more important than ever that municipal services continue to function,” he said, adding that public transportation, garbage collection, drinking water service, internet and street cleaning will continue on regular schedules.

Palacios ordered several changes. “While public parks and plazas will remain open, law enforcement will not allow gatherings of more than 30 people, based on national rules. Also based on those rules, buses will be fumigated on a regular basis and riders will not be allowed to stand in the aisles.”

The mayor said that while city markets will operate normally for the sale of food and household essentials, other businesses housed in the markets have been ordered closed. These include cell phone, shoe, crafts and clothing shops. He said that auctions at the city slaughter house have been suspended although livestock processing will continue as usual.

Palacios said his office is requesting clarification from the government on several emergency restrictions. “We are not clear, for example, if the 30-person public gathering limit applies to supermarkets.”

Most local supermarkets have experienced heavy traffic since President Lenin Moreno declared a national health emergency on Wednesday. According to social media reports, many Supermaxi shelves have been empty since Friday and the Favorita Corporation chain admits it is having difficulty maintaining stock. According to management at the city’s Coral Supermercados, all stores are fully stocked.

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