News Release

“How Ecuador Descended into COVID-19 Chaos”


“In the last few days and weeks, media outlets around the world have been publishing shocking stories and images of the COVID-19 crisis in Ecuador,” Guillaume Long writes. “Scenes of corpses abandoned in the streets of Guayaquil, Ecuador’s second-largest city, have shaken audiences in Latin America and beyond. Statistics, even the highly untrustworthy official ones, have confirmed the dire picture of a fast accelerating crisis.”

The BBC reports: “The government said 6,700 people died in Guayas province [which includes Guayaquil] in the first two weeks of April, far more than the usual 1,000 deaths there in the same period. … According to the government’s figures, 14,561 people have died in Guayas province since the beginning of March from all causes. The province normally sees 2,000 deaths a month on average.”

GUILLAUME LONG, via Dan Beeton, beeton at, @ceprdc
Guillaume Long is a senior policy analyst at the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) in Washington, DC. Prior to joining CEPR, Guillaume held several cabinet positions in the government of Ecuador, including Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Culture, and Minister of Knowledge and Human Talent. Most recently, he served as Ecuador’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva.

Long’s latest post is titled “How Ecuador Descended into COVID-19 Chaos.” He writes: “Ecuador now has the highest per capita COVID-19 death toll in Latin America and the Caribbean, and the second-highest per capita number of COVID-19 cases. …

“From early on, Guayaquil and its surroundings seemed to be the most affected by the spread of the virus. Despite this, initial measures to slow infections were late coming and even slower to be implemented. On March 4, the government authorized the holding of a Libertadores Cup soccer game in Guayaquil, which many commentators have blamed as a major contributor to the massive outbreak of COVID-19 in the city. Over 17,000 fans attended. Another smaller national league game was held on March 8.

“By mid-March, and despite numbers of infected people quickly rising, many guayaquileños continued to go about their lives with minimal — if any — social distancing. Contagion also seems to have spread aggressively in certain well-to-do areas of the city, for example in the wealthy gated communities of La Puntilla in the suburban municipality of Samborondón, where, even after authorities had issued stay-at-home ordinances, inhabitants continued to mingle. A high-profile wedding was attended by some of the city’s ‘finest,’ and authorities later intervened to cancel at least two more weddings and a game of golf. On the weekend of March 14 and 15, guayaquileños congregated on the nearby beaches of Playas and Salinas.

“By the end of the first week of March, the situation had deteriorated sharply. On March 12, the government finally announced that it was closing schools, establishing checks on international visitors, and limiting gatherings to 250 people. On March 13, Ecuador’s first COVID-19 death was reported. The same day, the government announced it was imposing quarantines on incoming visitors from several countries. Four days later, the government limited gatherings to 30 people and suspended all incoming international flights. …

“Yet, the Moreno government’s response has been denial. Government ministers and diplomatic representatives abroad were told to give interviews denouncing it all as ‘fake news.’ …

“There are other, more structural and long-term problems related to the COVID-19 crisis. Convinced of the need and under pressure by the IMF to reduce the size of the state, the Moreno government has made damaging cuts to public health. Public investment in health care fell from $306 million in 2017 to $130 million in 2019. Researchers from the Dutch International Institute of Social Studies have confirmed that in 2019 alone, there were 3,680 layoffs from Ecuador’s Health Ministry, amounting to 4.5 percent of total employment in the ministry.”