Older people at much greater risk from Covid-19; Local governments await May 4 guidance

Apr 29, 2020 | 113 comments

Deputy Minister of Health Xavier Solórzano is warning older residents to take extra precautions against the Covid-19 infection. “I cannot overstate the importance that older Ecuadorians, especially those with chronic diseases, do everything possible to protect themselves from the coronavirus,” he said.

Although Covid-19 affects all ages, it is particularly dangerous for the elderly.

Of the 871 confirmed Covid-19 deaths in Ecuador, 718 are of those 50 or older, he said.

“As we learn more about the virus, we know that the general fatality rate has fallen,” Solórzano said. “A month ago, we believed it was 3.5 percent but today, with better testing data, we understand it is about one percent or even less. What has not changed, however, is that it is deadly for many older adults, often killing 10 percent or more of those it infects.”

The highest mortality rate, he said, is for the elderly who suffer from chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity, as well as those who are smokers or heavy drinkers or undergoing cancer treatment. “If you combine these conditions with age, the risk increases drastically,” he says. “For example, a 70 year old person who is obese and smokes is at much higher risk than a 70-year-old in good health.”

He adds: “We are aware of some combinations of age and chronic conditions for which the fatality rate approaches 25 percent.”

Solórzano said that new risk factors continue to emerge. “Within the past week, we have learned that people who take high blood pressure medication are almost twice as likely to die from Covid,” he said. “We are learning more about the disease on a daily basis and those who are in at-risk groups need to keep up with the developments.”

Solórzano added that the Covid-19 death rate among the elderly is much higher than the confirmed numbers. “As we found in Guayaquil, thousands of deaths go uncounted because of the tradition in Ecuador that the elderly die at home with their families.”

Some countries, particularly in the European Union, are considering requiring that those over the age of 60 maintain stay-at-home quarantines even after it is lifted for the rest of the population, Solórzano said. “This would be maintained until there is vaccine or until the disease dies out,” he said. “We may install some requirements for the elderly in Ecuador but there would be exemptions for personal reasons. We cannot infringe on personal freedoms without good reason.”

Local communities await May 4 guidelines
The government will announce this morning the extent of relaxation of health emergency restrictions for local communities in Ecuador. Changes to restrictions will be indicated by the country’s new traffic light system.

Last week, President Lenin Moreno said a number of rules and restrictions would be eliminated or relaxed based on local Covid-19 conditions, including the prohibition of some work. The decsions will be made by the Emergency Operations Committee (COE) in each province, he said.

Nothing will change in the country’s three largest cities as authorities in Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca have asked that all restrictions remain in place.

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