In a Thursday news conference, the Ecuador Medical Federation and the Quito Chamber of Commerce asked the government to relax weekend confinement aimed at controlling the Covid-19 pandemic. “The restriction is causing great harm to Ecuadorian families, depriving them of the right to earn an income,” said Carlos Loaiza, president of the Chamber of Commerce. “The quarantines are costing a billion dollars a week, money that is desperately needed to rebuild the economy and the lives of Ecuadorians.”
Santiago Carrasco, director of the Medical Federation, insisted that the government institute a nationwide system of rapid testing so it can target areas of high rates of infection. “Shutting most of the country is not a successful strategy and the damage it causes is much more than the damage caused by the virus,” he said. He added that much of the government’s pandemic preparations have been inadequate and, in some cases, counter-productive.
In Cuenca, the Chamber of Commerce issued a statement of support, questioning why the city and Azuay Province were included in the quarantine in the first place. “The province ranks low in the number of cases and deaths, yet the government has chosen to choke off the economic sources that lead to a recovery. Now, we approach the Mothers Day weekend, one of the most important of the year, and we are locked down. It is a great deprivation for mothers, for families and for the businesses that depend on it.”
Carrasco appealed to the new government of Guillermo Lasso, which takes office next week, to make changes to country’s approach to fighting the Covid-19. “Ecuador has less than two doctors per 1,000 people when the international standard is three and a half, yet the current government has fired thousands of doctors to save money,” he said. “Our testing program is a disaster. Chile has conducted 10 times more tests, per capita, Peru four times more. The numbers that the Ministry of Health releases each day are almost worthless since they only include cases of sick people.”
The Medical Federation and Chamber of Commerce admit that their message was aimed at the Lasso government. “We have only one week left of the old government and don’t expect significant changes but we hope to gain the attention of President Lasso so we can begin to form a rational approach for fighting the virus,” Loaiza said.
Carrasco agrees, acknowledging that the current 28-day health emergency restrictions did not consider the impact on poor families and businesses. “We are seeing growing cases of malnutrition resulting from the rules, even some cases of starvation, and I agree with business interests that health measures that deprive people of income do not work. They must be balanced against the threat of the disease.”
He added: “Much of the current emergency is the result of poor planning, particularly the failure to provide the hospital beds that the government promised a year ago.”