The wearing of facemasks in indoor settings has been reinstated in Ecuador due to the increase in cases of COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases such as influenza, the National Emergency Operations Committee (COE) announced Wednesday.
COE Director Juan Zapata said the decision had been made after receiving an epidemiological report from the Health Ministry. It is mandatory for all citizens to use the mask in closed spaces, poorly ventilated places or where it is not possible to keep a distance, such as classrooms, transportation, work, Zapata said. Masks are also mandatory in hospitals and for people with respiratory symptoms, he added.
Ecuador had lifted the measure in April after consecutive drops in the number of infections and deaths, at a time when President Guillermo Lasso said the pandemic was under control.
Although not compulsory, the use of masks was recommended in open places and in large gatherings. COE also suggested people be tested for COVID-19 in case of any respiratory symptoms or influenza and to perform five days of voluntary isolation from the onset of symptoms.
The authorities have also urged people over 65 years old, children between six months and six years old, and pregnant women to take a booster dose of COVID-19 and influenza vaccines.
Health Minister José Ruales admitted there was an increase in respiratory diseases in seven of the 24 provinces of the country; however, there was no change in hospitalizations or deaths. He also explained that the severe acute respiratory infections currently registered corresponded to AH3N2 influenza and the most susceptible population are children under five years old and adults over 65 years old.
As for COVID-19, in epidemiological week 48 (the current week), 3,549 confirmed cases have been reported nationwide, that is, 2,869 more than in week 45, when 680 cases were recorded. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the South American country has accumulated 1,018,179 cases of COVID-19, of which 35,907 have died. (Source: Xinhua)