Health Minister quits, citing ‘politicalization’ of anti-Covid-19 effort; Cuenca cases double again; Visa deadlines suspended; Med supply shortage

Mar 22, 2020 | 38 comments

Ecuador Health Minister Catalina Andramuño resigned Saturday, complaining that the government is putting political interests above health concerns in the fight against the coronavirus. She claims that medical and scientific recommendations are being ignored by government officials.

Former Health Minister Catalina Andramuño

An unnamed source said that Andramuño objected, in particular, to Vice President Otto Sonnenholzner being put in charge of the national Covid-19 effort, claiming the move was “purely political,” intended to advance Sonnenholzner’s presidential campaign and that he lacked basic understanding of medical issues and protocols.

In her resignation letter to President Lenin Moreno, Andramuño also complained that the health ministry had not received the funding necessary to manage the Covid-19 effort.

The president’s office announced Saturday night that Juan Carlos Zeballos has been appointed to replace Andramuño.

Before Andramuño’s resignation, the health ministry reported that the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the country had grown to 532, of which 379 are in Guayas Province. It reported seven virus-related deaths.

In Cuenca, Saturday’s total was 17, up from nine on Friday. Two other Azuay Province cases were confirmed in the Yunguilla Valley, southwest of Cuenca.

Virus update

Health workers complain of lack of supplies
Estalin Endara, spokesman for Cuenca medical workers, said Saturday that his members lack the necessary protective gear to treat coronoavirus patients. “We need gloves, surgical masks and clothing to safely treat the victims,” he said. “We have been told the supplies are forthcoming but they have not been delivered.” He said that supplies on hand will be exhausted by Monday. Directors of the Vicente Corral Moscoso Hospital acknowledge the shortage, blaming it on a bidding process that has been slow to respond. The Zone six health ministry office said it is working to resolve the problem.

Visa periods extended for tourists, temporary and permanent residents
Ecuador will extend the visa period for tourists and foreign residents as a result of the coronavirus emergency. The foreign ministry annnouced Saturday that it would also extend the term of visas that are in process for extention or satus change. The extention will be in effect until mid-May. “No visas will be terminated during this period,” it added. Once the emergency ends, foreigners will have 30 days to finish visa processes already underway in or leave the country without paying a fine, the ministry said. The change applies to tourists, temporary residents and permanent residents.

KLM flies Dutch citizens out of Guayaquil
A total of 213 Dutch nationals left Guayaquil Saturday aborad a KLM flight bound for Amsterdam. The flight was the first international flight out of Guayaquil since Wednesday when Mayor Cynthia Viteri blocked KLM and Iberia aircraft from landing at the airport to evacuate foreigners.


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