QUITO, Ecuador — Two weeks ago, the New York Times grouped Ecuador among the world’s countries that the COVID-19 pandemic had hit hardest. The Times reported that the death toll of COVID-19 in Ecuador was as much as 15 times higher than the Ecuadorian government officially reported. Video coverage revealed the nation’s struggle to deal with the unprecedented number of the dead. One family had to wrap a coffin in plastic wrap; others loaded a body bag into the back of a semi-truck; still other footage showed construction vehicles digging a large burial site in Guayaquil, Ecuador’s port city and business capital.
On Tuesday, the Ecuadorian Ministry of Public Health released a set of data concerning COVID-19 online. Here are some key facts from this data as of May 21, 2020.
- The Ministry reported a total of 26,350 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ecuador.
- Of those confirmed cases, 1,880 people have died.
- Guayas, the province in which Guayaquil is located, accounts for 51.17% of Ecuador’s confirmed cases, and 43.69 percent of its confirmed deaths.
- Out of the entire nation, the city of Guayaquil accounts for 35.64% of confirmed cases, and 31% of confirmed deaths.
The New York Times attributed these high percentages in part to the inability of Guayaquil residents to stay home and obey quarantine restrictions. Many of the city’s residents work informal jobs and make their living from day to day. These people need to go to work in order to eat. So, staying home can equate to succumbing to poverty instead of COVID-19.
Impact Beyond the City
These Guayaquil residents represent a vulnerable population in the face of the virus. However, other vulnerable populations exist within Ecuador as well. On May 5, Reuters reported on the threat that COVID-19 poses to the nation’s indigenous groups, specifically the Siekopai nation. The Siekopai live across the country from the port city of Guayaquil, along the border with Peru. Fearing infection and even the possible extinction of their people, dozens of the nation’s members have already fled into the Amazon rainforest to escape the virus.
With stories such as these, it is clear that the impact of COVID-19 in Ecuador stretches across the whole country. The virus’s impact reaches all the way from the port city of Guayaquil to the rainforest along the eastern border, affecting countless lives along the way.
Signs of Hope
There is reason for hope, however. In late March, President Lenín Moreno appointed Dr. Juan Carlos Zevallos as Ecuador’s new Minister of Public Health. Zevallos, a former teacher at Florida International University, expressed hope that Ecuador’s situation with COVID-19 is beginning to improve. Since early May, the country has begun to flatten the official growth curve of virus cases. Zevallos said he has seen other indicators of improvement as well. He referenced the declining number of new deaths as well as the decreasing numbers of emergency requests and hospital admissions. Furthermore, the virus transmission rate is declining.
Zevallos also addressed criticisms that Ecuador had been unprepared for the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Even a very strong health system cannot contain a very tragic situation like this,” Zevallos said. Zevallos cited the Ecuadorian government’s efforts to establish quarantine restrictions early on and the people’s lack of adherence to these measures.
As with any country during this pandemic, it is difficult to say for certain what the final course of Covid-19 in Ecuador will look like. However, with a flattening curve and the signs of improvement noted by Zevallos, there is hope that Ecuador’s situation will turn around in time.
– Emily Dexter