Quito, Jan 17 (EFE).- Starting on Monday, Ecuador is implementing strict epidemiological monitoring and gathering restrictions after a 300 percent spike in Covid-19 infections during the worst week since the start of the pandemic with 42,000 newly detected cases.
With an eye toward reducing the number of infections, most of them in all likelihood from the highly transmissible Omicron variant, authorities on Sunday put most of the country’s municipalities on “red alert,” with 193 of Ecuador’s 221 districts in that category, while 26 are on “yellow alert” and just two are in the “green,” or clear, category.
According to the latest disease update issued by the Health Ministry, on Sunday 11,027 new Covid cases were reported, putting the overall caseload since the start of the pandemic at 625,059. Deaths from Covid have totaled 34,227, with 24,311 confirmed Covid deaths and 9,916 suspected deaths from the virus.
The Andean province of Pichincha, the capital of which is Quito, has had the largest number of positive cases, with 220,441, after registering 1,657 the day before, but the coastal province of Guayas, where Guayaquil is located, reported 4,306 new cases for a total of 105,083 since the start of the pandemic.
Guayaquil Mayor Cynthia Vitera on Monday warned that intensive care unit beds in the city’s hospitals are “completely occupied” and that in less than four days deaths from the virus have risen from an average of 10 to 14 per day.
At a press conference held on Monday by the Guayaquil municipal authorities, the city’s health coordinator, Carlos Farhat, warned that “mortality is in an unquestionable rising trend.”
Although two weeks ago an average of 77 patients died each day from Covid, last week that figure shot up to 98 per day, “a considerable increase that marks the seriousness of what we’re experiencing,” Farhat said.
Regarding the positivity index, the official said that last week 901 positive cases were being detected per day while currently the average figure is 1,547 per day.
In March and April 2020, Guayaquil registered a striking increase in deaths from Covid-19 and other causes, which combined with the collapse of the local health and funerary system led to the so-called “corpses crisis,” with hard-hitting images of bodies left on the street or in improvised morgues rocketing around the world via the social networks and other reporting.
Amid fears that a similar situation could occur now, municipal authorities made the decision not to authorize large-attendance events and to keep the in-person capacity limit for workplaces at 30 percent.
The medical director at the Pablo Arturo Suarez Hospital in Quito, Dany Chavez, acknowledged on Monday to EFE that noteworthy increases have occurred in recent weeks in both in the area of hospitalizations – including intermediate and moderately sick patients – as well as in ICU admissions.
“Right now we’re at an occupancy percentage of more than 90 percent,” she said, adding that 70 percent of the hospitalizations are unvaccinated patients or those who have not been fully immunized and 20 percent are vaccinated citizens with other comorbidities.
Despite the fact that Ecuador does not specifically determine the virus strain in all positive cases, Chavez said that physicians assume, from the clinical symptoms that patients are presenting, “that the majority of the cases are created by the Omicron variant.”
Health authorities believe that the new measures announced regarding venue capacity reduction to 30 percent for red alert cities will help reduce the number of infections insofar as the options for large gatherings and non-essential encounters will decrease.
Among other measures announced for the majority of Ecuador’s red-alert municipalities is the suspension of in-person classes at all educational levels, just as in the country’s two largest cities: Quito and Guayaquil.