VP sees ‘light at end of the tunnel’ as Ecuador extends restrictions; Guayaquil deaths show testing deficiency; Cuencanos come home
Vice President Otto Sonnenholzner said Friday that Ecuador’s sacrifices to overcome the Covid-19 virus are paying off. “This has been a painful period for the country but we are beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel,” he said in a television address. “In many provinces, recoveries from the coronavirus outnumber new cases and our health care system is seeing relief as well.”
Even in hard-hit Guayas Province, which the vice president said has experienced “a tragedy,” he sees improvement. “In the past week, the number of new cases and deaths are declining. He acknowledged that the death toll in the province, especially in Guayaquil, was “terrible” and reveals the limitations of the country’s Covid-19 testing capability. The government reported Thursday that many of 5,700 deaths above the monthly average in the province may be the result of Covid-19 infections.
Sonnenholzner cautioned that progress in containing the virus will be slow in the coming weeks. “Despite the improvements, reducing restrictions and resuming normal acitivies will come slowly to avoid new outbreaks,” he said. He added that the end of the Covid-19 threat is months away, when a vaccine is developed but said new medicines could help to reduce the impact.
Earlier Friday, Interior Minister María Paula Romo said all health emergency restrictions will be extended for another week, to April 26, but said selected businesses, including construction, will be allowed to resume work as soon as this week. “There will be strict social distancing and testing requirements but we believe we can begin opening the economy selectively,” she said.
Although Sonnenholzner and Romo say they can’t confirm the cause of the extra deaths in Guayas Province, they say that Covid-19 was the likely the cause of most of them. “This has been a very wet and hot season in that region so we believe that some of the additional deaths had other causes,” she said. “The vast majority of deaths happened in private homes, not in hospitals, so they were difficult to track. We are gathering more information and will provide our findings when they are available.”
Based on testing results, the government reports 193 Covid-19 deaths in Guayas Province with another 214 listed as probable but untested.
Cuencanos stranded overseas return home
Ecuador’s Integrated Security Service (ISS) said Friday that 84 Cuenca residents who were out of the country when the international travel ban went into effect on March 14, have returned home. Another 47 returned to Cuenca on Wednesday. The ISS said all those returning had completed their 14-day quarantine in Quito and Guayaquil after their arrival on humanitarian flights from the U.S., Europe and Mexico. Included in those returning were 17 legal foreign residents.
Friday Covid-19 case count
In its Friday report, the Ministry of Health said there were 8,450 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 virus in Ecuador, resulting in 421 deaths with another 675 virus deaths considered probable. The ministry said that it continues to process a backlog of of “several thousand” tests. Of the active cases, the ministry says 6,732 are being treated at home while 234 are hospitalized. It reports that 922 patients have recovered from the virus and have tested negative.
Guayas Province reports 5,777 cases, 68 percent of the national total. Cases reported in other provinces include: Pichincha, 779; Los Ríos, 279; Manabi, 262; and Azuay and El Oro, with 207 each.
Body smuggling stopped
Ecuador’s armed forces say they have stopped more than a dozen bodies being smuggled across provincial borders. The bodies were concealed in trucks transporting food and other essential products, the army says. Under emergency health declaration restrictions, bodies must be buried in the province where the death occurs.