Health Minister Ximena Garzón said Tuesday that the outdoor masking requirement will be eliminated in two weeks if there is no increase in the number of Covid-19 cases reported. “The number of new cases has remained constant or declined in recent weeks, with positive test results running at 5 percent or less,” she said.
“In addition to reducing the requirement for masks, we will also consider relaxing other health restrictions if the current trend continues,” she added. “It is important that we work in concert with other countries as we emerge from the pandemic and are watching closely what they are recommending.”
Garzón said that hospitals “continue to decongest” from Covid care. “We are approaching pre-pandemic levels around the country and our intensive care units are operating normally once again. All of the evidence suggests that the few cases of Omicron we are experiencing are very mild, similar to the common cold.”
She said that there was no noticeable increase in Covid cases following Carnaval and she doesn’t expect an increase from the Easter holidays. “We are doing very, very well, thanks to our vaccination program and the public adherence to protection rules during the worst times of the pandemic.”
The national laboratories processing Covid tests confirm Garzón’s optimism. Hugo Vergara, director of Biodimed Labs says the positivity rate of tests his company processes is running between one and two percent. “After Christmas and the New Year’s holidays, almost 50 percent of the tests were positive so the change is dramatic. We are finished with the worst of this disease.”
Health Ministry epidemiologist Catalina Yépez agrees with Vergara and Garzón but cautions that new variants could increase the case count. “The good news is that the new variants we are watching appear to cause only minor symptoms and do not lead to hospitalization.”