On Saturday, March 21, authorities announced that 532 coronavirus (COVID-19) cases including seven associated fatalities were confirmed in the country, a significant rise from 111 cases in just four days. Hours later, the country's health minister stepped down and a replacement was shortly announced.
All international arrivals to Ecuador by air were suspended and all foreign nationals were barred from entering the country at any of its air, land, or sea border crossings as of Sunday, March 15. All Ecuadorean nationals are barred from returning to Ecuador as of Monday, March 16, at 23:59 (local time). Vice President Sonnenholzner also announced a ban on public gatherings of more than 30 people, including religious processions during the Holy Week. Other public areas such as gyms, cinemas, theaters, and other entertainment venues are subject to restrictions. The Yasuní National Park has also been closed to all tourists.
Further spread of the virus is expected in the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, and difficulty breathing, seek medical care urgently and share your previous travel history with your health care provider.