Pandemic ‘almost over,’ health minister says, as country records only one Covid-19 death in 10 days
Health Minster Ximena Garzón defended the government’s decision to reopen most indoor businesses and events at 100 percent capacity on Monday, insisting that Ecuador could be the first country in the Andean region to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Since March 19, we have recorded only one death from the coronavirus and our hospital ICU units have very few virus patients,” she said. “Although the entire region is recovering, we have fewer Covid-19 cases based on population than Colombia, Peru, Bolivia and Chile. Our numbers indicate that the pandemic in Ecuador is almost over.”
She added that the Omicron BA.2 subvariant is widely prevalent in the country but has not affected the downward trend of cases.
Following President Guillermo Lasso’s March 18 announcement recommending 100 percent indoor capacity, several medical organizations insisted that the action was premature and would result in a resurgence of cases. The medical associations of Guayas and Pinchincha Provinces said that all restrictions should remain in place until at least July.
According to Garzón, there has been no increase in cases following the recommendation or as a result of Carnaval holiday festivities. “There was understandable concern following the large recent gatherings that infections would increase but this did not happen. This is the result of the success of our vaccination program and because so much of population developed immunity from Omicron infections that were generally mild.”
The health office of Unicef estimated that six in 10 Ecuadorians were infected with Covid-19 since October 2020, the majority of them with Omicron since December 2021. It reported that most of the cases were asymptomatic or mild due to the high rate of vaccination.
Garzón said that the positive rate for Covid-19 tests dropped from 61 percent in early January to five percent last week.