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Virus situation 'critical' in Ecuador capital: minister

Ecuadorean soldiers wearing facemasks take part in a coronavirus public education operation in the capital, Quito
Ecuadorean soldiers wearing facemasks take part in a coronavirus public education operation in the capital, Quito Cristina Vega RHOR AFP/File
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Quito (AFP)

The situation in the Ecuadoran capital Quito is critical due to the coronavirus epidemic, Health Minister Juan Carlos Zevallos warned on Sunday.

Between April and July, public hospitals in Quito -- home to 2.78 million -- expanded their intensive care units from 61 to 162, Zevallos said in a nightly interview with the Teleamazonas network.

Demand for hospital beds grew "by 1.6 times" over the same period, he added.

"The situation in Quito, the situation in (the surrounding province) Pichincha, is in a critical situation, this means that the intensive care units are full," he said.

However, he said hospitals had made adjustments to their inpatient and emergency departments so "there is not a patient who is not treated in Quito."

According to official figures, the capital has 10,599 infections and is the second most affected city after Guayaquil.

Guayaquil was the epicenter of the epidemic with bodies left in the streets as hospitals were overwhelmed by an avalanche of patients after the first case was detected in the country on February 29.

Quito's mayor Jorge Yunda warned in late June that health services in the capital were being overwhelmed.

To cope with the rising demand, beds had been adapted for use both with ventilators and for more sophisticated intensive care units, Zevallos said.

In mid-May Ecuador began to ease its lockdown, but authorities in Quito say the city may need to reimpose some measures after a notable increase in infections.

In the South American country, which has a population of 17.5 million, the epidemic has already infected more than 74,000 people and killed more than 5,300.

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