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Published on January 19, 2021

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Tracking the spread and outcome of the coronavirus in Ecuador: Updated for Tuesday, January 19, 2021

This week, in addition to providing our summary, we are also including information reported by El Universo newspaper that has taken a look at things differently than how we have been tracking. They reported this week on the increase in the positivity rate across the provinces, as opposed to the number of new cases. This is exactly the kind of information we have hoped to see reported since the start of the pandemic (we are still providing our graphics and tracking data for your review).

El Universo reports that the positivity in PCR (molecular biology) samples to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus has increased five-fold in the Galapagos, quadrupled in Orellana, doubled in Guayas, Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas and Santa Elana and has also increased in lower percentages in another 16 provinces of the country—according to the last four accumulated reports, calculated over a period of four epidemiological weeks each and detailed in infographics 304, 311, 318 and 325 of the Committee of National Emergency Operations (COE). [December 27, January 3, January 10 and January 17: Situation Reports and Infographics – COVID 19]

The 16 other provinces are: Esmeraldas, Manabí, El Oro, Carchi, Imbabura, Pichincha, Cotopaxi, Bolívar, Tungurahua, Chimborazo, Azuay, Loja, Sucumbíos, Pastaza, Morona Santiago and Zamora Chinchipe.

Only in the case of Los Ríos, Cañar and Napo has the situation for the moment stabilized, although the percentage of positivity has also been growing in those provinces, which refers to the number of PCR samples that have been positive for every 100 tests processed in a certain location.

Approaching April levels in Guayas

The situation in Guayas is as follows: between November 29 and December 26, of every 100 samples processed, only 14 were positive for COVID-19 infection and the remaining 86 were negative. Between December 6 and January 2, out of every 100 tests, 17 were confirmed cases and 83 were discarded. Between December 13 and January 9, out of every 100 samples, 21 were positive and 79 were negative. And between December 20 and January 16 of this year, out of every 100 samples, 27 were confirmed cases and 73 were discarded. This means that the positivity in this province would have almost doubled, between the last month of 2020 and the first month of 2021, based on the national COE infographics, going from 14% to 27%, an increase of 92.86 %.

This recent percentage of positivity (27%), detected in the last four weeks, has already exceeded what happened in May 2020 in this province, where out of every 100 tests, 17 were positive (17% of positivity), and it is approaching (as a percentage of positivity, but not as a total of confirmed cases) what happened last April in Guayas, where out of every 100 samples processed, 31 came out positive (31% positive) and 69 were negative. Recall that the peak month in Guayas was last March, when out of every 100 samples, 51 came out positive and 49 were negative, with a positivity of 51%, and the peak week there was between March 22 and 28, when out of every 100 tests, 56 were positive for contagion and 44 discarded, with a positivity of 56%.

Guayaquil slightly better than rest of province

If we only review Guayaquil, the situation is as follows: between last November 29 and December 26, out of every 100 samples processed, 19 were positive for COVID-19 infection and the remaining 81 were negative. Between December 6 and January 2, out of every 100 tests, 21 were confirmed cases and 79 were discarded. Between December 13 and January 9, out of every 100 samples, it remained at 21 positive and 79 negative. And between December 20 and January 16 of this year, out of every 100 samples, 25 were confirmed cases and 75 were discarded. This means that the positivity in this city, between the last month of 2020 and the first month of 2021, rose from 19% to 25%, an increase of 31.58%, lower in relation to the entire province of Guayas.

But the current 25% positivity in Guayaquil already exceeds almost double what happened last May (15%) and is close to what happened in April (regarding the percentage of positivity, not the total number of infections), when every 100 samples, 28 were positive and 72 were negative.

The peak month in Guayaquil was March, when out of every 100 samples processed, 50 were positive and 50 were negative, reaching a positivity of 50%, but the peak week in the city was between March 22 and 28, when out of every 100 tests, 56 came out as confirmed cases and only 44 aswere discarded, with a 56% positivity.

The Guayaquil COE Technical Board of Health, in its epidemiological report number 14, points out that in epidemiological week 2, from January 11 to 17, 2021, “there is a slight but sustained increase in suspected cases and confirmed COVID-19.”

In that recent week, the incidence of suspected and probable cases in this city, based on every 10,000 inhabitants, went from 12.3 to 12.4, a figure close to what happened in the last week of October, with an incidence of 12.45 for every 10,000 inhabitants.

This means that out of every 10,000 people, at least 12 were suspected of carrying SARS-CoV-2, while the incidence of confirmed cases rose to 1.49 out of every 10,000 inhabitants, the highest in the last four months in Guayaquil. In addition, the transmission rate, adjusted to date, is 1.01, which means that an infected person could infect at least one other person on average.

According to that report, there is an “increase in suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19, especially in seven sectors of Guayaquil: Socio Vivienda, Vergeles, Samanes, Alborada, Fertisa, Guasmo Norte and Urdesa.”

Fortunately, this increase has so far only resulted in 21 more deaths over the 4-week period; and increase of less than 1%.

The Galapagos numbers raise serious concern

Twenty other provinces have in turn had small, medium and large increases in that percentage of positivity. One of the somewhat worrying increases occurs in the Galapagos, where between November 29 and December 26, out of every 100 PCR samples, only 6 were positive and 94 were negative, but according to the recent report of the national COE between December 20 and January 16, out of every 100 tests, there are now 30 confirmed cases and 70 discarded ones, so the positivity went from 6% to 30%.

Two more deaths were reported during this time, raising the number from 6 deaths to 8.


In the case of Orellana, between November 29 and December 26, the percentage of positivity was 2% (2 out of every 100 samples were positive) and in the period between December 20 and January 16, this indicator rose to 9 % (9 new infected detected out of every 100 tests processed). This is more than a four-fold increase, as alarming as the Galapagos.

However, Orellana reported no new deaths during this time.

Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas

In Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, that percentage of positivity also had a significant increase, going from 17% (17 positives out of every 100 samples) to 38% (out of every 100 tests processed, 38 confirmed cases now appear).

This doubling of the positivity rate goes along with an increase in deaths from 490 to 511, or 4.29%.

Santa Elana

Santa Elana saw an almost two and a half increase in positivity, rising from 16% (16 confirmed cases out of 100 tests) to 40% (40 samples have tested positive for contagion out of 100 recently processed). During this period, the province saw its death total rise from 663 to 672, or 1.36%

Currently, the highest percentage of positivity is registered in the provinces of Carchi and Cotopaxi, with 42%, based on the last four weeks, followed by Santa Elena (40%) and Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas (38%).


The situation in Pichincha, one of the provinces most affected by the pandemic, is as follows: between last November 29 and December 26, out of every 100 samples processed, only 14 were positive for COVID-19 and the remaining 86 were negative. Between December 6 and January 2, out of every 100 tests, 15 were confirmed cases and 85 were discarded. Between December 13 and January 9, out of every 100 samples, 16 were positive and 84 were negative. And between December 20 and January 16 of this year, out of every 100 samples, 22 were confirmed cases and 78 were discarded. This means that the positivity in this province, according to infographics 304, 311, 318 and 325, between the last month of 2020 and the first month of 2021, went from 14% to 22%, an increase of 57.14%.

The recent percentage of positivity calculated in this province, although it is on the rise for the moment, is not as concerning as in Guayas, as it is lower than what was seen there in the first months of the pandemic; in March the province had a positivity of 24%, and in April of 38%. In fact, it reached 53.6% positivity between August 16 and September 12 (period of four epidemiological weeks).


While we agree that the positivity rate is the most important number to be able to follow, we still think it is important to track new cases and deaths. With regard to the number of cases, the numbers this week are horrible. The number of new deaths also rose this week, but the number of provinces that saw an increase in the rate of new deaths, has fallen.

New Cases

All 24 provinces saw an increase in the number of new cases, but of course that relates to an increase in the rate of samples collected and the rate if tests completed, both of which rose this week.

Nonetheless, the increase in new cases reported was significant, even when accounting for those improvements. Further, there was a significant increase in 22 of those 24 provinces.

There were 10,412 new positive cases this week, versus only 6,456 last week.

By far, the province with the highest increase in new cases was Pichincha, which went from 1,885 new cases last week to 3,367 this week (a 44% increase)

However, by percentage, there were even higher increases in 11 other provinces. Those were:

  • Canar – 65.63%
  • Carchi – 53.33%
  • Cotopaxi – 52.99%
  • Galapagos – 55.03%
  • Imbabura – 56.09%
  • Loja – 60.0%
  • Orellana – 50.0%
  • Pastaza – 54.84%
  • Santa Elana – 50.30%
  • Santo Domingo Tsachillas – 47.84%
  • Zamora Chinchipe – 46.67%

Overall, the positivity rate did go up slightly from 30.18% to 30.21%.

New Deaths

The number in deaths across the country also rose this week, going from 14,177 to 14,319, or 142 new cases. However, this is only a rise of 15.87%, versus an increase of 113.56% last week.

The province with the greatest increase in deaths this week was Pichincha, which reported 40 new deaths, almost 6 times as many as last week (7).

Cotopaxi also saw 2.5 times increase in new deaths, recording 10 this week versus 4 last week.

On a positive note, Tungurahua saw its number of new deaths fall from 19 last week to 5 this week.

Provincial numbers

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

  • A frightening24 of 24 provinces saw increases in the rate of new cases (22 significantly),
  • Eight provinces saw an increase in the rate of new deaths (3 significantly),
  • The overall rate of new cases rose,
  • The overall rate of new deaths rose,
  • The rate of new sample collection fell again,
  • The number of hospital admissions rose by almost 12.84%,
  • The rate of discharge remained at approximately 2.5%,
  • The number of people in ICU beds rose by 11.4%,and

As for good news, statistically there is again little to report. We can say that the government increased the number of tests it ran by 4.60% and the number of samples collected by 4.67%.


Even with its improvement in processes, Ecuador’s test collection and processing pales in comparison to other countries

According to the official statistics, in October a large number of tests that had been in backlog were cleared; a total of 133,414 samples were tested. In December, however, only 91,342 were processed, representing a 32% drop between the two months.

So far in the first 2 full weeks of January, the government has processed 56,554, approximately the same number of samples it has collected over that time (56,040). So, its backlog remains at 45,629 tests.

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

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

Based on the Ecuadorian Institute of Statistics and Censuses (INEC) population projections, Ecuador has only tested about 4.56% of its population. With 811,969tests completed, Ecuador has tested 45,645/1 million people, falling to 148thout 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 17.84%, 17.69% and 38.14% of their populations, respectively.

Colombia has tested 178,404/1 million people and ranks 95th on the list. Peru has tested 176,879/1 million people and ranks 96th on the list. Chile has tested 381,390/1 million people and ranks53rd on the list.

[Chile only has 8.1% more people than Ecuador but has tested 9 times more people!]

Venezuela, who’s economy is considered to be in the worse shape in South America has tested 8.78% of its 28.4 million people. Even Argentina, who also has serious economic issues, has tested 12.22% of its citizens.


Here is a quick review of the graphical highlights below (as of Sunday, January 17, 2021 at 8:00AM):

  • 14,319deaths have been attributed to COVID-19.
  • 811,969test samples have been collected.
  • 231,482tests have returned positive (+).
  • 534,858tests have returned negative (-).
  • 45,629test samples remain “dammed” or backlogged in the testing process.
  • 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 13.0% of the deaths have been among the ages 65 years and older.
  • 5% of cases have been on males, 47.5% in females.
  • Guayas province accounts for 12.9% of confirmed cases (29,903) and 24.89% (down from 25.11% last week) of the confirmed deaths (3,564).
  • Pichincha province accounts for 35.0% of confirmed cases (81,130) and 16.41% (up from 16.29% last week) of the confirmed deaths (2,350).
  • Azuay province accounts for at6.4% of confirmed cases (14,737) and 1.73%of the confirmed deaths (248).


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, January17, 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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