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Numbers improve just before local governments install their own regulations against the COVID-19 pandemic

Published on September 23, 2020

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Tracking the spread and outcome of the coronavirus in Ecuador: UPDATED FOR TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2020

We’ve now entered the first week without nationalized restrictions in place under a state of emergency. This means that this week’s review will be the last numbers that we can be sure were relative to the prior months we’ve reviewed.

From this point forward, the numbers reported will be a mix of new tests and tests in backlog—each set collected under different restrictions. At some point we will cross the threshold where we will be looking at purely new tests that were taken after the national restrictions were lifted—but that is some time in the future.

In theory, Cantons will put restrictions in place similar to the national restrictions, but we have already seen that some (like Cuenca) are choosing to essentially lift travel restrictions and others are opening up beaches and public places that will not allow strict control of social distancing.

As the responsibility for preventing the spread of the coronavirus falls on the citizens of the country, we may be surprised to see numbers continue to improve—perhaps people will follow the restrictions that they are now used to.

Nonetheless, this week’s numbers can finally be compared to the previous week, after dealing with the government’s adjustment to how they record figures over the last two weeks.

What we see this week is an improvement in almost all statistical categories, and significant improvement in provincial numbers. For the first time in months, it appears that the spread of the virus has begun to slow, and the number of deaths is making a true downward trend.

This is not the time to drop our guard, however, as we are seeing a second wave of the virus spreading thru Europe. As Ecuador was the first country in Latin America to be hit in the first wave, Ecuadorians will need to be careful that they don’t fall into complacency and end up in the same situation as their European counterparts.

Government testing efforts are still behind most of South America

Even now, as the government has turned the responsibility for instituting restrictions across the country into the hands of the local authorities, it continues to fail in its primary remaining responsibility, COVID-19 testing across the country. In the most critical factor in establishing a response to the virus, Ecuador continues to come in last in South America (for countries with at least 1 million people) as a percent of population.

Ecuador is also behind 6 South American countries (Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Chile, Venezuela and Argentina) in both the total number of tests given and the rate of tests per million people.

Based on the Ecuadorian Institute of Statistics and Censuses (INEC) population projections, Ecuador has only tested about 2.22% of its population. With 392,684 tests completed, Ecuador has tested 22,182/1 million people, falling to 141st out of 215 countries tracked worldwide (from 139th last week). 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 19.14 million) have tested 6.79%, 11.22% and 16.02% of their populations, respectively.

Colombia has tested 67,851/1 million people and ranks 93rd on the list. Peru has tested 112,193/1 million people and ranks 67th on the list. Chile has tested 160,211/1 million people and ranks 47th on the list.

The country with the most cases on South America, Brazil, has tested 7.05% of its population. Venezuela, who’s economy is considered to be in the worse shape in South America has tested 6.72% of its 28.4 million people. Even Argentina, who also has serious economic issues, has tested 3.90% of its citizens.

Lots to be optimistic about this week

Even though Ecuador continues to fall behind in its testing efforts compared to its neighbors, the results of this week’s numbers compared to last week’s, gives us some reasons to be optimistic. But again, we are entering the first week of relaxed restrictions nationwide and we have no idea what next week will bring.

On a high-level look, we saw improvements in the number of samples collected, the number of tests completed, the number of positive tests and the overall positivity rate.

We also saw a drop in the rate of new cases and new deaths.

This week, the only overall figure that did not improve what the percent of samples still in backlog, but part of this could be because of the increase in samples collected.

Nonetheless, the trend this week seem to be toward improvement.


Rate of positivity sees largest fall since May, sampling and testing do improve

The rate of sample collection went up this week, from an increase of 7.16% to 9.31%. Also, the rate of tests completed went up to 9.97% from 7.82% last week. Both of these numbers may have increased because of the governments shift to letting the laboratories enter their own numbers into the tracking system.

The rate of backlogged tests increased this week to 6.05%, versus 4.04% last week. This was the only overall figure that did not improve—it is something to keep an eye on going forward. If the government continues to increase sample collections but begins to fall behind again on completing the testing of the samples, we will start to have less confidence in the overall numbers.

A good trend to see is that the rate of new positive tests fell as well as the overall positivity of the tests.

The comparison of “Positive Tests” versus the prior week helps to see if more symptomatic people are seeking to be tested, and therefore possibly, if the rate of infection is increasing.

The rate of “Positivity” helps to tell us if there is an increase or decrease in the viral spread of the coronavirus. This number fell significantly. This week’s 39.06% of positive cases per samples tested is the largest drop that we have seen since we began our tracking back in mid-May.

Encouraging fall in in the rate of new cases and new deaths

As reported above, there was an encouraging fall in the overall rate of new cases (6.60% versus 8.02%), and more than a 50% fall in the rate of new deaths, from 3.60% to 1.72%.

Provincial numbers improve as well

This week, 16 provinces had a lower rate of new cases than last week;10 of them had significant drops.

More importantly, only 1 province, Azuay, saw a significant increase in new cases, going from 10.34% to 13.57%.

Just as encouraging, 15 provinces had a lower rate of new deaths than last week; 10 of them had significant drops.

Also, only three provinces saw significant increases in the rate of new deaths; Canar, going from 0.0% to 7.48% (which correlated to 5 new deaths); Morona Santiago which went from 0.0% to 5.26% (correlating to only 1 new death); and Zamora Chinchipe, which went form 2.33% to 6.82% (this correlated to 3 new deaths).

Increase or decrease in rates of both cases and deaths

This week, only 4provinces—Cotopaxi, Morona Santiago, Napo and Tungurahua—saw increases in both the rate of new cases and the rate of new deaths.

More importantly, 11 provinces—Chimborazo, El Oro, Esmeraldas, Galapagos, Imbabura, Loja, Los Rios, Orellana, Pastaza, Pichincha, and Santa Elana—saw both of these rates decrease this week.               

Unfortunately, locally things continue to look worse

Locally, the situation in Cuenca continues to worsen significantly; the number of new cases rose significantly to 13.57%.

More discouraging is that the restrictions put into place by the Cantonal COE lack any real value.

Driving has become essentially uncontrolled with the only restriction being that no driving will be allowed from 11:00PM to 5:00PM.

Gyms have been allowed to open, bars and restaurants can stay open to 11PM and serve alcohol as long as it is served with food, and meetings are no longer restricted to 10 people.

It will be interesting to see how Cuenca’s numbers jump in the next week after what amounts to a near total removal of most restrictions.


The graphic accompanying this article is provided by the government; it has been modified for easier readability. The numbers and statistics below are based on all case data collected by the government as of 8:00 a.m. on Sunday, September 20, 2020. More detail of all of the numbers in the graphic follow below.

Like many countries across the globe, Ecuador does not know the actual numbers of people infected by the coronavirus or the total number of deaths that can be attributed to COVID-19.

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.

The numbers above are compared at a provincial level. This is a critical point to keep in mind; in many cases, there are cantons that have been able to lift restrictions even though they are in a province that has actually shown increases in positive tests and deaths at a higher rate than the prior week. However, the decisions to loosen restrictions are being made at the level of the canton, not the province.

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

Some of the numbers have been adjusted; in some towns the number of cases may have gone down, but the number of deaths may have gone up, or vice versa. This is because the government has been critically evaluating the cause of death information in its database and also removing duplicate records. Information is now being followed by national ID card numbers (i.e., Cedula number) rather than by name.


Here is a quick review of the graphical highlights below (as of Sunday, September 20, 2020 at 8:00AM):

  • 11,090deaths have been attributed to COVID-19.
  • 387,107 test samples have been taken collected.
  • 126,419 tests have returned positive (+).
  • 197,260 tests have returned negative (-).
  • 63,428test samples remain “dammed” or backlogged in the testing process.
  • 7% of the deaths have been among the ages 20 to 49 years old.
  • 9% of the deaths have been among the ages 50 to 64 years old.
  • Only 13.9% of the deaths have been among the ages 65 years and older.
  • 9% of cases have been on males, 47.1% in females.
  • Guayas province accounts for 16.0% (down from 16.8% last week) of confirmed cases (20,192) and 29.75% (down from 30.19% last week) of the confirmed deaths (3,301).
  • Pichincha province accounts for 26.4% (up from 24.6% last week) of confirmed cases (33,435) and 13.94% (down from 13.46% last week) of the confirmed deaths (1,546).
  • Azuay province accounts for at6.4% (up from 6.0% last week) of confirmed cases (8,086) and 1.39% (up from 1.34% last week) of the confirmed deaths (154).
  • No province has escaped deaths due to COVID-19.


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