Moreno says health ministry lacked an immunization plan; Covid cases surge in Quito, Guayaquil; Visas to U.S. extended for Ecuadorians; Falconí has Covid
Ecuador’s Health Ministry has spent the past week “working tirelessly” to develop an immunization plan, according to President Lenin Moreno. “We thought we had a plan under the former ministry administration but discovered there was not one,” the president said Friday. “Our new [health] minister, Mauro Falconí, has dedicated himself and his staff to rectifying the situation and I believe we are on our way to having a coherent schedule for coronavirus vaccines.”
A week ago, Moreno defended former Health Minister Juan Carlos Zevallos, saying that the lack of information about the delivery of vaccines “made planning very difficult.”
Appointed following the surprise resignation of Rodolfo Farfán, who had replaced Zevallos and had been on the job for less than three weeks, Falconí criticized Zevallos for leaving the ministry in a “state of disorganization.”
It is unclear how Falconí’s Covid infection, disclosed Friday, will affect immunization planning.
Covid cases on the rise in Quito and Guayaquil
Officials at the national Emergency Operations Committee are blaming an increased number of parties and informal sports events for a surge in new Covid-19 cases in Quito and Guayaquil. They also say that increased informality associated with the Easter celebration is also to blame.
Public hospitals in Quito and Guayaquil report that they are over-capacity in their Covid treatment units with the IESS Sur Hospital in Quito saying it is at 145 percent capacity in its intensive care unit and has run out of beds for new patients.
U.S. extends visa terms for Ecuadorians
U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador Michael Fitzpatrick announced Friday that tourism and business visas for Ecuadorians in the U.S. have been extended from five to ten years. The change takes effect on April 8. According to Fitzpatrick, the extentions are the result of improving relations between Ecuador and the U.S. “It is thanks to the systematic commitment and collaboration of the government of Ecuador to implement immigration and security reforms that this change is possible,” Fitzpatrick said. He added that “the people of the United States and Ecuador have a long and proud history of interconnectivity and it is our wish to maintain those ties.”
Health minister comes down with Covid
After Health Minister Mauro Falconí tested positive for Covid-19 on Friday, he said he had not been vaccinated against the virus. Former minister Juan Carlos Zevallos was criticized for being vaccinated in January, putting himself ahead of those in vulnerable populations. Several newspapers editorialized over the weekend that it was preferable to have the country’s health minister vaccinated so he or she could remain on the job during the health emergency. “Now, Mr. Falconi will in quarantine for two weeks and be unable to perform all the functions of the job,” the editors of El Mercurio of Manta wrote Sunday. “We believe putting him at risk of infection by not vaccinating him also puts the country at risk.”