Quito poised to overtake Guayaquil in Covid cases; Tram may continue to be free; More flights are allowed; Colombia warns of more sacrifice

Jul 21, 2020 | 19 comments

Within a matter of days, it appears that Quito will pass Guayaquil in total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases. On Monday, Quito registered 10,599 cases while the Guayaquil total stood at 11,640. From the end of April to July 20, Health Minister Juan Carlos Zevallos said that the daily demand for intensive care hospital beds in Quito grew by 160 percent, rising from 202 to 329.

Officials blame a lack of social distancing for the rise in cases in Quito.

Although Quito hospitals report being over-capacity, Zevallos says that no one has been turned away. “Despite social media rumors, no patients in Quito have been denied service. It is a difficult situation but we are accommodating it,” he said.

Zevallos conceded that the official case numbers in Guayaquil are probably well below the actual total. “We were limited in the number of tests we could perform during the outbreak in Guayas Province so there were many more than those reported.”

Officially, Quito has recorded 572 of the 5,313 confirmed Covid deaths in Ecuador. The confirmed death toll in Guayaquil is 1,523 but health authorities say the real number could be as high as 8,000.

Tram could continue to be free pending bus agreement
Cuenca’s tram could continue to provide free service until a unified payment system agreement is reached with bus owners. Councilor Xavier Barrera, who chairs the city’s transportation committee, says it makes sense to continue free passage until the fare dispute is resolved. “Otherwise, we would start one payment system and a few weeks or months later be forced to change it and this would be expensive and inconvenient to customers,” he said. He added that no decision about the idea has been reached.

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Barrera said that progress has been made recently in discussions between bus owners and the city. Following Monday talks, the city agreed to pay owners part of the subsidy it owes for half-fare riders

Airline flight capacity is increased
The national Emergency Operations Committee (COE) has authorized an increase in the frequency of airline flights to 50 percent of pre-pandemic levels from the current 30 percent. The COE said the decision was the result of rising passenger demand and the successful implementation of biosecurity measures at the airports. Under the 30 percent flight limit put into effect June 1, the number of flights at Quito and Guayaquil airports have increased 50 percent while those at Cuenca increased 75 percent. The total number of flights nationwide, as of July 20, was less than 15 percent of pre-pandemic levels, the COE says.

Colombia says Covid emergency could last another year
Colombia President Iván Duque warned Colombians Monday that the coronavirus pandemic will be present for “at least another year” and require the continuation of limits on public mobility and social interaction. “We must re-energize the economy but we must simultaneously maintain social distancing and other health measures to protect the health of the citizens. The economy has paid a high price but must be prepared for more sacrifices until vaccines and other treatments prove to be effective in stopping the spread of the virus.”

Once a success story in controlling the spread of Covid-19, Colombia is today one of Latin America’s virus hotspots, exceeding 200,000 confirmed cases and 7,000 deaths last week. On Monday, the country reported 6,727 new cases.

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