On The Ground News from Ecuador

By Tod Swanson, Associate Professor at ASU working on the Amazonian social relation to nature. Edits and addition by Claire Campbell, LACIS Social Media and Communications Intern.

We left Ecuador on an 11:30 PM flight on March 16 just before they closed the airports at midnight. The whole country is in lockdown. The healthcare system in Guayaquil seems to be completely overwhelmed. They seem unable to keep up with burying the dead. The deaths are not counted as COVID-19 because they are not tested. But in other places like Napo, it has not hit yet. There is only one known case so far in Tena. The indigenous territories away from roads are blocked off but I think that they let relatives returning from Puyo or Tena through. The oil rigs are still running in the parts of the Waorani territory open to oil. So that seems like a point of contagion. My guess is that Ecuador, especially the coast, is way under reported because of lack of testing.

To isolate themselves from the virus, many indigenous families have returned to their forest homes by canoe. The territories were then sealed off by the leaders of the indigenous nations in an attempt to prevent contagion.

Since leaving Ecuador, those cases have only spiked. The country is now nearing 10,000 cases, and as The New York Times calls it, has become the site of Latin America’s “most aggressive outbreak of the coronavirus.” The death toll in the country has risen because people are not only dying from the virus, but from other issues like heart disease and hypertension as a result of lacking medical attention due to overflowing hospitals. They have medical personnel going door-to-door looking for those infected, with movement between neighborhoods almost entirely cut off. The mayor of Guayaquil, Cynthia Viteri, said that they have become incredibly strict with their restrictions because they simply don’t have any other option with the shortage of testing, according to the Times.