The central government is asking local Emergency Operations Committees to intensify efforts to control a predicted surge of new Covid-19 cases. “The reason for our new call is to avoid excess demand on hospital capacity,” says Minister of Health Juan Carlos Zevallos. “With the arrival of the new mutation of Covid-19 from Great Britain and possibly South Africa, we must take action now to protect our health systems.”
Zevallos’ warning follows Saturday’s confirmation that a Los Rios man has tested positive for the highly contagious UK variant. The health ministry has quarantined more than a dozen of the man’s family members and friends who have been in close contact with him.
In a letter sent out Sunday, the ministry recommended that local COE’s make new efforts to enforce social distancing requirements; reduce capacity in public spaces; update rules to control public and private gatherings; enforce capacity limits on buses and trains; maintain closures of bars and night clubs and close those that have been allowed to reopen; and strictly enforce restrictions of the political campaign.
On Monday morning, Social Security system president Jorge Wated reported that nationally, all public health and Social Security hospitals are at 100 percent capacity for critically ill patients. “We are entirely full and are erecting tents and other temporary facilities to handle the increase in cases,” he said. “We are also transferring the most critically ill patients to private hospitals, which still have ICU capacity.”
Wated said he did not have statistics of how many critical patients are suffering from Covid-19 but said he believed the total was over 50 percent. “The public hospitals are under great strain but continue to function well at this point,” he said. “So far, we have good news in the fact that we are not seeing an increase in deaths due to Covid as our treatments have become more effective in treating the virus.”
In comments on Sunday, Zevallos emphasized that the newly idenfieid Covid variant is not more severe than other strains. “There is no evidence suggesting this but the mutation is certainly more contagious, maybe by as much as 50 percent, so we are concerned about our the capacity of our hospitals to handle the increase in cases.”
He added that the government has no plans to order a new emergency declaration. “The Constitutional Court has ruled against this option so we will concentrate on providing information and recommendations to local COEs and governments and emphasizing the importance of working in unison to control the virus.”