Optimism grows as new Covid-19 cases trend downward; 80% of cases are mild or show no symptoms; Officials to reevaluate restrictions

Mar 31, 2020 | 54 comments

For the second consecutive day, the number of new Covid-19 cases in Ecuador was down sharply. Monday’s count of 42 followed Sunday’s of 89, well below the previous week’s daily average of almost 200. The Ministry of Health also reported that the number of deaths from the virus has risen to 62.

Interior Minister María Paula Romo

In a morning press conference, Interior Minister María Paula Romo acknowledged “measurable progress” in the country’s efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus and said the government will reevaluate its emergency health restrictions on April 5. “The country has shown strong acceptance of the restrictions we have placed on personal mobility and I believe this support is showing positive results,” she said. “Ecuadorians understand the seriousness of the crisis and are working together to overcome it. We have a long way to go in this fight but our confidence is growing that our approach is correct and that it will save lives.”

On the question of when restrictions might be relaxed, Romo said decisions would be made based on the advice of health experts. “The decisions will be scientifically driven and will not be political,” she said, acknowledging that the government is under great pressure to reopen the country. “We will look first at the rural areas where there are limited cases and it is possible that rules will be relaxed there first but, at this point, we are not close to making that determination.”

She also reported that a review of confirmed cases shows that 80 percent of cases testing positive have no symptoms are mild symptoms. “This gives us a broader view of the impact of the virus on the country, considering that our testing program is limited. We believe the high number of asymptomatic and mild cases is a reflection of the average age of Ecuadorians, which is much younger than in countries such as the U.S., Spain and Italy, where the death toll is very high.” Of all confirmed cases, she said that 191 people are hospitalized with mild to moderate symptoms while 110 are in serious condition.

Romo said that as many as 200,000 new tests should be available this week, allowing an expansion of the testing program.

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Virus update

Credit: El Comercio

Health experts reject chloroquine to fight coronavirus
Top Ecuadorian medical experts are advising the country’s doctors against the use of the chloroquine drug that has been promoted in some countries as a cure for Covid-19. Epidemiologist Marcelo Aguilar said the drug was tried in several Ecuadorian cases and proved ineffective. “In fact, we had adverse reactions in several of those,” he said. Diego Serrano, president of the Ecuadorian Society of Cardiology, agreed and said the drug could aggravate some heart conditions and should not be used. “We have been familiar with this drug for many years since it is similar to quinine, which is native to Ecuador,” he said. “It is effective in fighting malaria but has many side effects that make it unsuitable for coronavirus treatment.”

Transit cops arrest 331 for driving violations
Officers of Cuenca’s EMOV transportation authority are increasing enforcement of restrictions on the use of private vehicles during the national health emergency. The agency said it was doubling the number of road checks beginning Tuesday, March 31. Since March 22, EMOV has issued 331 fines, costing drivers $200 and a deduction of nine license points.

China donates supplies
The Government of China announced Monday that it is sending a shipment of medical supplies to Ecuador, with most of it going to Guayas Province, which has more than 70 percent of the country’s Covid-19 cases. Chinese consul Azhang Tao said that the shipment is an acknowledgment of the strong bonds between the people of China and Ecuador and is made based on Chinese experience in fighting the virus. The shipment includes personal protection equipment for medical personnel, including face masks, gowns and gloves, as well as medicine, ventilators and other medical equipment.

Repatriation flights suspended
Flights bringing home Ecuadorians stranded abroad have been suspended due to what the interior ministry says are widespread violations of quarantine rules. “All returning nationals are required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon their arrival and many of them are in violation of this rule,” Interior Minister María Paula Romo said Monday. The suspension is temporary, she added, until health ministry officials develop a more intensive program to monitor the quarantines of those being repatriated.

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