MADRID – Ecuador has been sharing its experience of tackling the coronavirus pandemic to help other nations, Health Minister Juan Carlos Zevallos said on Saturday.
Zevallos has completed a tour of Europe, including visits to Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom, to spread information about how the country has managed during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“I have just visited Berlin, London and Madrid, but Ecuador, with a population that has become very contaminated, has 2.5 times fewer deaths than any of these three European countries,” he told EFE.
Ecuador has reported around 117,175 confirmed cases and 6,675 deaths, according to health officials.
Four months after the city of Guayaquil was ravaged by the outbreak, the situation is largely under control in the South American country, according to Zevallos.
“We have far fewer deaths per million inhabitants than practically all the countries of Latin America and with a much higher rate of infection than we had previously,” he added.
Zevallos said the reaction to the pandemic has to be bilateral.
“Classically it has been: let’s learn one way, let’s get donations, let’s do everything as it has been done in Europe or in the United States,” he continued.
“And that’s fine, but I want to emphasize that we’re all adapting and learning all the time.”
The dire situation in Guayaquil, which saw bodies left in the streets, marked a before and after for Ecuador’s approach to the pandemic, according to the minister.
“We learned, and this is the message to Europe: this pandemic is not going to end at the hospital level, it is on the periphery,” he said.
He added that a fundamental measure in getting a grip on the contagion was primary health care.
“We moved everything to small health centers, those on the periphery, those in neighborhoods,” he continued.
“We strengthened them. We made dispensaries communicate with the community, establishing the neighborhood doctor who will knock on doors of houses to look for cases to help them, not to point fingers.
“That incorporation into the community, not so much the hospitals, has been one of the most important factors in containing the pandemic in Ecuador.”
Zevallos said countries need to work together and share information on what has been effective in managing infections.
Ecuador has been in a state of emergency since March 16 and began relaxing restrictions at the end of May, although this was more from economic necessity than an improvement in the health crisis.
The Ecuadorian government announced on Wednesday that the state of emergency will end on Sept. 14.
Authorities will have to consider how to maintain social distancing without the ability to impose legally-binding measures such as restricting freedom of movement.
Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno has launched a health campaign called “Yo me cuido,” which translates as “I look after myself.”
Zevallos said authorities will not be able to limit the number of people who can gather together and that curfews that had been imposed will also end.
“We are passing on that co-responsibility to the individual,” he added.
“I take care of myself because I don’t want to keep infecting my loved ones, my neighbors, my family.”
He emphasized the importance of community collective responsibility and “the importance of recognizing that this pandemic is not local, it is global, and as such the solutions must be in the international arena.”
He warned that governments should be “very cautious” about how vaccines are developed and distributed and that decisions on this issue should be made globally.
Accessibility must be guaranteed at a reasonable price, he added.