Supplies are arriving but more are needed; Cuenca will ‘respect’ the dead; Moreno sends fiscal stimulus bill to Assembly; Updated stats

Apr 4, 2020 | 55 comments

Ecuador Health Minister Juan Carlos Zevallos says new equipment and medicine is arriving but says more are needed. “We are beginning to see a steady flow of personal protection gear, intensive care equipment and pharmaceuticals necessary to fight Covid-19,” he said. “Our challenge is getting it to the facilities that need it and, of course, we need more.”

Health Minister Juan Carlos Zevallos

He said that the more than 1,400 tests are being administered and processed each day. “We received 20,000 tests and reagents late this week and are supplied for at least two weeks,” Zevallos said. “A priority is to test health workers because if they get sick in large numbers the system could collapse.”

He expressed anger that almost 80,000 face masks were recovered from a “criminal hoarder” and are awaiting customs clearance at the port in Guayaquil. A man was arrested Thursday in Guayaquil when police found an estimated 35,000 masks, presumably stolen, in a clandestine warehouse. More masks are sitting on the docks awaiting customs clearance to be sent to hospitals. “Vandalism and thievery in this situation should be severely punished and we must have immediate access to materials that arrive from overseas,” he said.

Zevallos thanked the government of China for a shipment of masks, respirators and medicine. “We need all the help we can get from our friends,” he said.

The health minister added that he was pleased to see a decline in new cases on Friday but says it is too early to tell if it is a trend. “We were fooled before and don’t know if one day’s numbers indicate a change. A lack of testing brings into question the validity of the larger picture.” Earlier in the week, Zevallos said he believed that new cases would peak late next week.

Zevallos repeated an earlier prediction that as many as two-thirds of all Ecuadorians will eventually contract Covid-19. “People should not have the false assumption that current restrictions mean they will not get the virus,” he said. “Some people won’t, but most will. Our plan, like that of most countries, is to flatten the short-term curve so our health system can deal with the critically ill. People will contract the virus for three to four months, and probably beyond, and this will build community immunity.”

Virus update

The dead will be respected in Cuenca
Azuay Province Governor Xavier Martínez said Friday that there will be no repeat in Cuenca of the Guayaquil scenes of bodies left on streets and sidewalks. “We are prepared to handle this as the death rate increases,” he said. “We have learned from the misfortune in Guayas and have developed protocols for the removal of bodies if the local funeral industry is overwhelmed. The plan has been reviewed by the provincial COE (Emergency Operations Committee) and is currently in place.” Martínez also said that Cuenca hospitals are well-equipped to treat virus patients. “We expect to be stressed in the coming weeks but we believe we have adequate beds as well as intensive care equipment.”

The crowded scene at Feria Libre on Friday.

President sends fiscal relief bill to the Assembly
President Lenín Moreno announced Friday that he is sending legislation to the National Assembly to defend employees and small businesses in Ecuador. “The workers and entrepreneurs must be protected because they are the backbone of our economy, which faces extreme tests in the months ahead,” he said. He also said he is proposing measures to assure the stability of the U.S. dollar. According to government data, 70 percent of Ecuador’s business activity is paralyzed by stay-at-home restrictions aimed at slowing the advance of the virus. The remaining 30 percent of the country’s businesses are working at reduced capacity, Moreno said.

Too many people are on Cuenca streets, mayor says
Cuenca Mayor Pedro Palacios said he is working with the Azuay Emergency Operations Committee to reduce the number of people on the streets during non-curfew hours. “Although some are doing essential business, like shopping for food, many more or not,” he said Friday following a tour of the Feria Libre market on Av. Las Americas. “I saw people sitting on benches and fishing on river banks and this is not allowed.” He said police and the armed forces will step up patrols to control unauthorized gatherings. “If this does not work, we will consider extending the curfew,” he said.

Friday’s virus numbers
The government announced Friday that the number of Covid-19 cases has increased to 3,368 confirmed infections in Ecuador. The 205 new cases was less than half of Thursday’s new case count of 450. The death count increased to 145. Guayas Province has recorded 2,388 cases, two-thirds of the national total. An estimated 3,700 people are in monitored quarantine with suspected infections. The health ministry said it is also investigating 101 deaths that could be the result of Covid-19.

The case count by province: Guayas, 2,388; Pichincha, 285; Los Ríos, 138; Azuay, 99; Manabi, 67; El Oro, 56; Canar, 56; Santa Elnena, 48; Loja, 27; Bolívar, 26; Chimborazo, 25; Imbabura, 18; Esmeraldas, 14; Cotopaxi and Tungurahua, 13 each; Galapagos, 19; Pastaza and Carchi, 9; Zamora Chinchipe, 2; Napo and Orellana, one case each.

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