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Number of new COVID-19 deaths falls significantly, while testing program stumbles again

Published on February 10, 2021

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 Tracking the spread and outcome of the coronavirus in Ecuador: Updated for Tuesday, FEBRUARY 9, 2021

The numbers this week show signs of improvement, even though the rates of sampling and testing have fallen again.

The rate of new cases is lower again for the second week in a row, going from 3.95% increase to only a 2.97% increase—this means a drop in new cases from 9,536 to 7,454.

As we have said over and over again, while these drops in cases are welcome, the number of new cases is directly related to the number of tests run, so this is typically of no value. If the government had continued to increase its rate of testing and sampling, then the fall in cases could clearly prove improvement.

However, the rate of increase in sampling fell from 4.62% last week to 2.71% this week and the rate of increase in test completion fell from 4.48% to 2.99%. Both of these drops were significant.

The resulting fall in the backlog of cases does nothing more than illustrate that the government does not have the manpower to adequately collect and test more new samples while also clearing the backlog of tests.

As for the backlog of tests, it did fall this week from 48,920 to 47,870 tests. However, a very disturbing thing regarding the history of the tests completed happened this week. As the graphic titled, “Number of Tests Added to Results Since January 31, 2021” shows, the government made huge corrections in prior weeks of testing. If for example we look at week 45 in this chart, it shows that the government took away 614 cases that had been posted to that week. And in week 46 it added 452 tests.

In week 51 it also took away 389 cases after adding 388 cases to week 50.

There are numerous other incidents of extreme swings in the charting of cases reports. This has not happened since the early months of the pandemic and really raises concerns about the reliability of the entire testing program.

What is encouraging is that the number of new deaths fell significantly again this week, going from 236 to 163, a 31% drop.

Also, another positive indicator this week was the fall in number of hospitalized patients and the number of ICU patients. This is the first fall in these numbers since early December and may indicate that the post-holiday effect has passed. Though there is of course fear of a post-election increase in the next few weeks and then again in late April after the second round of national elections.

THE NUMBERS

While we feel that the positivity rate is the most important number to follow, there is still value in tracking the number of deaths, hospitals admissions and ICU census. With regard to the number of cases, the numbers this week are better than last week.

The number of new deaths dropped significantly this week (31%), and the number of provinces that saw an increase in the rate of new deaths fell from 8 last week to 4 this week. Again, a significant improvement.

New Cases

Only four (4) provinces saw an increase in the number of new cases, but of course that relates to the rate of samples collected and the rate of tests completed; again, both of those figures fell this week. There were only 7,454 new positive cases this week versus 9,536 last week.

As usual, the province with the highest increase in new cases was Pichincha, which went from 87,656 cases last week to 90,325 cases this week, or 2,669 new cases (this was a 20% drop in the number of new cases from last week).

By percentage, only 4 provinces saw a rise in the number of new cases. Those were:

  • Esmeraldas – 2.31%
  • Imbabura – 4.98%
  • Santo Domingo Tsachilas – 3.73%
  • Tungurahua – 4.13%

Seventeen provinces saw significant falls in the number of new cases.

The positivity rate fell insignificantly from 30.00% to 29.99%.

New Deaths

The number of new deaths across the country fell this week by 31.0%, going from 14,859 to 15,022, or 163 new cases (versus 236 last week).

The province with the greatest increase in deaths this week was Manabi (for the second week in a row), which reported 32 new deaths, slightly less than last week.

Pastaza saw the highest percentage increase in deaths this week (from 2 to 10).

Guayas saw a significant drop in the number of new deaths this week, from 27 to 10.

Nine provinces had significantly fewer deaths than last week and only two provinces (Loja and Pastaza) had significant increases in the number of new deaths.

Hospitalizations

As we said above, the number of hospitalizations dropped for the first time in weeks, as did the number of patients in ICU beds.

This week the number of hospitalized patients fell from 1,415 to 1,310 and the number of patients in the ICU fell from 529 to 492.

Provincial numbers

As is clear to see in the accompanying charts and graphics, there is some good news to report. To summarize:

  • Seven provinces reported no new deaths this week,
  • Only four provinces saw increases in the rate of new cases (2 significantly),
  • Only four provinces saw an increase in the rate of new deaths (2 significantly),
  • The overall rate of new deaths fell,
  • The rate of new sample collection fell,
  • The rate of test completion fell,
  • The number of hospital admissions fell by 7%,
  • The rate of discharge was 2.8%,
  • The number of people in ICU beds fell by 7%.

TESTING

Compared to the rest of South America, Ecuador’s testing program is a failure

Ecuador continues to lag behind all of South America (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela) in the percentage of population tested and the number of tests given per million residents.

Based on the Ecuadorian Institute of Statistics and Censuses (INEC) population projections, Ecuador has only tested about 5.14% of its population. With 915,683 tests completed, Ecuador has tested 51,426/1 million people, or 151st out of 215 countries tracked worldwide. This is dismal when compared to Ecuador’s direct neighbors.

Its neighbors Colombia, Peru and Chile (who’s population is size is closest to Ecuador at 19.18 million people) have tested 20.70%, 19.96% and 44.12% of their populations, respectively.

Colombia has tested 207,016/1 million people and ranks 93rd on the list. Peru has tested 199,584/1 million people and ranks 97th on the list. Chile has tested 441,215/1 million people and ranks 52nd on the list.

[Chile only has 8.1% more people than Ecuador but has tested 9.26 times more people!]

Even Venezuela, who’s economy is considered to be in the worse shape in South America has tested 9.62% of its 28.4 million people. Argentina, who also has serious economic issues, has tested 14.50% of its citizens.

GRAPHICAL HIGHLIGHTS

Here is a quick review of the graphical highlights below (as of Sunday, February 7, 2021 at 8:00AM):

  • 15,022 deaths have been attributed to COVID-19.
  • 909,065 test samples have been collected.
  • 258,282 tests have returned positive (+).
  • 602,913 tests have returned negative (-).
  • 8% of the deaths have been among the ages 20 to 49 years old.
  • 3% of the deaths have been among the ages 50 to 64 years old.
  • Only 12.9% of the deaths have been among the ages 65 years and older.
  • 2% of cases have been on males, 47.8% in females.
  • Guayas province accounts for 12.6% of confirmed cases (32,630) and 24.37% of the confirmed deaths (3,661).
  • Pichincha province accounts for 35.0% of confirmed cases (90,325) and 16.23% of the confirmed deaths (2,434).
  • Azuay province accounts for at 6.3% of confirmed cases (16,336) and 2.02% of the confirmed deaths (303).

HOW ACCURATE ARE THE NUMBERS?

The numbers from the government are only “accurate” as historical references, since they cannot guarantee that tests completed this week are from samples collected over the last seven days.

However, the graphic accompanying this article (it is provided by the government, but has been modified for easier readability), does offer some recent graphical dated information on four provinces, and at a national level.

The numbers and statistics below are based on all case data collected by the government as of 8:00 a.m. on Sunday, February 7, 2021. More detail of all of the numbers is available in the graphics that follow.

The numbers in the graphic reflect the number of people who tested positive or negative for the virus, with both the polymerise chain reaction or (PCR) test which looks for antigens and identifies the presence of the virus in the body, and the “Rapid” test which looks for antibodies to the virus and identifies a person’s immune response to the virus. The PCR test gives an earlier identification of those who have been infected by the coronavirus and whether they have an active infection. Ecuador is now only reporting new PCR test results (however, prior Rapid tests are included in its report).

These numbers do not reflect the actual total number of people infected across the country or the number of deaths that can be attributed to COVID-19. The dates on the graphic are also adjusted back to when symptoms began, not when the positive test occurred.

For those who want a deeper level of information for a particular town or city, see: https://www.gestionderiesgos.gob.ec/coe-nacional/

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