Nineteen days after taking office, Mauro Falconí, Ecuador’s fourth minister of health during the coronavirus pandemic, stepped down. The now ex-holder of the portfolio was dismissed due to protests against the disorganization in the country’s vaccination campaign. At the beginning of the week, for example, the elderly faced queues for hours in order to be immunized.
The crisis in Lenín Moreno’s office comes at a time of worsening Covid-19 in Ecuador and three days before the second round of the presidential elections, disputed between center-right banker Guillermo Lasso and leftist Andrés Arauz, sponsored by the former leader Rafael Correa (2007-2017).
“Our elderly people deserve the utmost respect. I asked for the resignation of the Health Minister, who will be replaced by Camilo Salinas,” announced Moreno, through his social networks.
Falconí was already under pressure due to the lack of organization in the database for the vaccination campaign. His predecessor, Rodolfo Farfán, fell after a scandal in which doses of the coronavirus immunizer were administered to politicians linked to regional governments.
So far, the country, which at the beginning of the pandemic was one of the hardest hit by the health crisis in Latin America, has administered 2 doses of vaccines to every 100 people, according to data compiled by the New York Times. Brazil, where the vaccination campaign is considered slow, administered 12 doses / 100 people.
Regarding the percentage of the immunized population, only 1.3% received a dose in Ecuador. This rate drops to 0.6% when considering the application of the two doses. Vaccination in the country began in January, with a batch of just over 200,000 doses of Pfizer. In the last week, Ecuador received 300,000 of the 1 million doses ordered from the Chinese laboratory Sinovac.
In addition to being fired, Falconí is in isolation, having become infected in the week following his inauguration.
The increase in cases in recent weeks has led the Ecuadorian government to declare a state of exception, with a curfew from 8 pm to 6 am in eight provinces, including the most populous, where the country’s main cities, such as Quito and Guayaquil, are located. There is also a car rotation during the week and the closing of part of the shops and parks.
According to the authorities, the presence in Ecuador of the variants of the coronavirus in Manaus and the British one were detected. Some hospitals in the Ecuadorian capital, such as Quito Sur, one of the most important in the country, have already reported overcrowding of ICU beds. “We have a 145% occupancy,” said Francisco Mora, coordinator of epidemiological surveillance at the health center.
For him, the country “is at a very critical point”. “We are entering a peak, and our health system already shows several signs of being saturated.” He says that there are patients waiting for care in the corridors and in makeshift beds in rooms previously dedicated to exams or other procedures.
At the moment, instead of Guayaquil, Quito seems to be the epicenter of the new high in cases in the country. Due to the worsening of the health situation, the closing events of the electoral campaign, which would be held in person on Thursday and Friday, are being held virtually.