Ecuador Health Minister Juan Carlo Zevallos insisted Thursday that the country’s health system is not “collapsing” under the strain of the Covid-19 pandemic but said residents may have to live with the disease for “many more months and probably longer.”
Zevallos also said that “inaccurate and sensationalist” news reports distort the reality of the outbreak. “An example of this is the recent news that Quito has overtaken Guayaquil in the total of confirmed cases,” he said. “This is true but what is not being said is that Quito has recorded less than 10 percent of the deaths than Guayaquil. For an accurate picture, the media must report the entire story, not just part of it.”
On Thursday, Quito reported 13,345 cases of Covid while the count in Guayaquil stood at 12,567. Officially, Quito has recorded 629 deaths while unofficially, the death toll in Guayaquil stands at more than 7,000, mostly from the April outbreak.
“Although the numbers of infections has increased in the inter-mountain region, in Quito, Cuenca, Amabato and Riobamba, the good news is that the fatality rate has been low,” Zevallos said. “It is true that our intensive care units are full or almost full but we are adding more beds everyday and no one is going without care. It is important to remember that the number of ICU units is very low in Ecuador per capita compared to other countries because of the younger age of the population and for cultural reasons, so reports of over-crowded hospitals is not necessarily the best indicator of how we are handling the crisis.”
Zevallos pointed out that Ecuador is faring far better than most other countries in South America. “There is a trajectory of the pandemic and we started much earlier than most countries in the region and, in fact, had the most cases of all countries at one point in late March. Today, the worst conditions are in Colombia, Peru, Brazil and Chile, but the situation in these countries will begin to improve soon too.”
He added that people must get used to living with Covid. “There is much we still don’t know about this disease but one thing that is becoming increasingly clear is that it will be with us for months and possible for years. In 2021, there will be vaccines and this will reduce the numbers and risks substantially.”
Zevallos said his biggest concern is for health care workers. “There are hundreds of doctors and nurses who are at the point of exhaustion,” he says. “They work long, hard hours and many of them have been infected with Covid themselves. Just as bad, they are isolating from their families which adds to the emotional strain. Above all, we must take care of the people who take care of us.”