Ecuador: Pandemic overwhelms govt’s national response

10 April 2020 02:55

BWI affiliates are concerned about the growing humanitarian crisis in Ecuador as the COVID-19 outbreak has debilitated the health system and overwhelmed the government’s inadequate response to the pandemic. 

As of 9 April, there are already 4,450 COVID-19 cases and 242 deaths in Ecuador. Union leaders said that the number of cases and deaths are much higher but there is a very low level of testing to officially record numbers accurately in the country. 

The city of Guayaquil is at the epicenter of the crisis and the union leaders said last week that the hospitals are overflowing, the morgues are full and there are no ambulances available to pick up those that have died in their homes, forcing many families to leave the bodies of their loved ones on the streets or even to incinerate them. 

(Photo: REUTERS/Vicente Gaibor del Pino)

While the government had initially put in place a night curfew to curb the spread of the disease, there is now a total lockdown with movement of people limited to buy food and medicine, and only essential work and services permitted. Health workers have reported the many frontliners are exposed to the virus due to the lack of personal protective equipment. Union leaders said that the government has prioritized external debt payments instead of mobilizing funds to purchase much needed medical supplies to address the crisis.

Informal workers that comprise five million of the country’s eight million economically active population, are unable to earn a living under the lockdown. BWI affiliates said that the government’s aid for the family of each informal worker of USD 60 for two months is grossly insufficient. They also say that there have been job losses, with workers dismissed without compensation ss employers say that they cannot afford to pay their workers while workplaces are closed.

The political situation in Ecuador is still fragile; only a few months earlier a peace deal was reached ending repression and violence by the government in response to protests by indigenous groups, trade unionists and the broader civil society mobilized. The protests mobilized thousands of people against economic and labour reforms that would have affected public sector workers and marginalized communities had these gone through.