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Ecuador News

Nighttime curfew extended; Virus cases surge again as officials confront Guayas ‘hotspot’; Water conservation urged in Cuenca

The National Emergency Operations Committee (COE) has announced it is extending the hours of the nighttime curfew beginning Saturday, with a start time of 7 p.m. instead of the current 9 p.m. The COE says the new hours will remain in effect until further notice.

The health ministry is expanding its efforts in Guayas Province to slow the spread of coronavirus. (El Universo)

The COE and Ministry of Health reported a 24-hour increase in the number of confirmed coronavirus infections to 426, up from 199 on Thursday. Four more virus patients died on Thursday, bringing the death toll to seven.

Alexandra Ocles, Emergency Operations director says the government is “extremely worried” about the spread of the virus in Guayaquil and Guayas Province where the number of cases stands at 318. “The growth, both numerically and as a percentage, is far ahead of the rest of the country and we searching for ways to slow it down,” she said. On Wednesday, the COE ordered that the overnight curfew begin at 4 .m. and Ocles says it may moved forward again if the outbreak does not slow.

Mario Paredes, an epidemiologist for the Navy health system, predicts that Ecuador is entering the beginning stages of a full-fledged epidemic. “The number of cases will double over the weekend and will be in the thousands a week from now,” he said. “We are expecting a very intense, very troubling period from a national health perspective and residents should be prepared. There is no way to put an optimistic face on what we are about to encounter.”

Padres said he believes the nationwide quarantine measures that began on Tuesday will prevent a repeat of the massive spike in infections being seen in Italy and now Spain. “We had a jump on the infection by instituting rules for human distancing when we did and we hope this shows benefits in a slower rate of spread that does not overwhelm our health system.” He cautioned that an end date of the national lockdown is hard to predict.

Virus update

ETAPA urges water conservation
Water usage has surged 20 percent in Cuenca since Tuesday, when the nationwide restrictions on human mobility began. In a public announcement, the public utility ETAPA urged customers to use no more water than necessary while stay-at-home orders apply. “We understand that people are spending more time at home than usual but we ask clients to use water carefully so the system is not stressed,” the utility said. “This is a period where we must all work together for the common good.”

Four men were arrested Wednesday night Cuenca for violating the curfew.

A dozen arrests for curfew violations
Twelve people were arrested Thursday night and Friday morning in Azuay Province for violating the national health emergency curfew. In total, there have been 72 arrests for violations since the curfew went into effect Tuesday night. Provincial Governor Xavier Martínez said curfew violators will receive one warning but will be arrested for subsequent violations or if they do not return home immediately after the warning. Penalties include fines and one to three years in prison.

Italians still hopeful quarantine will slow Covid-19 infections
The closely watched coronavirus outbreak in northern Italy shows no signs of subsiding, according to that country’s health officials. “We were hoping to see improvement by now due to our quarantine actions two weeks ago but that has not yet been manifested,” the deputy health minister said Thursday. On Friday, the ministry reported 627 additional deaths and 6,000 new infections, both record numbers. A Chinese team of doctors working in the country is urging the government to place more restrictions on the current lockdown.