Only ‘herd immunity’ will stop pandemic, gov’t says; Warning against ritualistic fires; Job losses top 300,000; Cuenca is ‘yellow’ for another week

Aug 8, 2020 | 89 comments

The Covid-19 epidemic in Ecuador will continue until the vast majority of people have been infected, says Presidential Secretary Juan Sebastián Roldán. “This is the consensus of health experts not only in Ecuador but in the world,” he said Friday. “A vaccine will help in reaching general immunity but, increasingly, the science suggests that it will be only be a small part of the solution.”

Cuenca firefighters battle a brush fire Monday in the Cajas National Park.

Roldán said that Ecuador has made “great progress” against Covid, citing a comparison of recent cases in Quito and Cuenca with those Guayaquil in April. “We know much more about the the disease today than we did in March and April, and this is why there have only been 10 percent of the deaths per capita in Quito as in Guayaquil,” he said, adding that the fatality rate is similar in Cuenca.

Last week, Quito exceeded Guayaquil in total cases but has recorded only a fraction of the deaths, the health ministry says. According to the national civil registry, there were about 8,000 excess deaths in Guayaquil from late March through May 2020 compared to 2019. In Quito and Cuenca, excess deaths for the same period amount to 900 and 185, respectively.

Roldán repeated Tuesday comments by Health Minister Juan Carlo Zevallos that 40 to 50 of the residents of Guayas Province and Guayaquil have been infected with Covid-19 which, he says, is the reason it has been contained there. “Although a vaccine will help in increasing immunity, we know now that its impact will be less than we originally hoped,” he said. “New information from the U.S. and World Health Organization tells us there will be no ‘silver bullet’ and that coronaviruses, including Covid and the common cold, resist long-term medical solutions. Covid is something we must learn to live with.”

Covid losses: $5.25 billion and 335,413 jobs
In its latest report, Ecuador’s Central Bank says the Covid-19 pandemic has cost Ecuador $5.25 in financial losses, mostly from lost trade, and more than 330,000 jobs. “The losses keep growing although at a slower rate than in April, May and June,” the bank said, adding, “We are seeing recovery and expect that to accelerate in the coming months.”

Of the 335,413 jobs lost, the bank reported that 105,500, or 31 percent, were in the commercial retail sector while 43,800 were in transportation; 36,700 were in manufacturing; 27,900 were in the professional trades; 26,900 were in agriculture; 25,000 were in construction; 19,200 were in lodging and food services; 16,700 were in education and health; 6,400 were in public administration; and 26,000 were in other services.

Labor unions, including the United Workers Front, disputed the bank’s statistics, claiming the number of unemployed is far higher than what is officially reported.

Fire chief warns against ritualistic fires
Cuenca fire chief Sixto Heras is urging indigenous communities to help stop the “superstitious” ritual of setting brush fires to produce rain. “Although the practice has mostly died out, some people continue to engage in it and it causes great damage to the environment and to private property. This is the dry season and the fire department is already overworked due to fires and we don’t need additional emergencies to deal with,” he said.

According to Heras, the fire-setting ritual dates back to pre-Inca times when it was part of a ceremony to ask the gods to produce rain. “The gods are no longer paying attention and it is the firefighters who have to clean up the damage.”

Governor’s office reopens Tuesday
Following a three-day shutdown due to cases of Covid-19 among employees, the government building on Calle Simon Bolivar at Parque Cadleron will reopen Tuesday. Governor Xavier Martinez denied social media reports that an office birthday party led to three infections last week. “The tests of the positive cases were taken the day before the party so there is no connection,” he said. “The party only included six people and all of them wore masks and practices social distancing.”

Cuenca remains yellow
The Cuenca Emergency Operations Committee voted Friday night to maintain yellow light Covid-19 health restrictions in the canton. Mayor Pedro Palacios said that extended curfew hours and increased policing have resulted in fewer violations. He said that hospital ICU units remain full but that more equipment is on the way.


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