Only two cantons have an adequate test for COVID-19 in Ecuador

Between the cantons, there are abysmal differences. In Guamote (Chimborazo) only 6 tests have been carried out for every thousand inhabitants; in Santa Cruz (Galapagos), 387.

April 12, 2021 – 10:06 p.m.

In Quito, samples were taken to detect COVID-19 from the members of the Vote Receiving Boards.

Getting a PCR test for COVID-19 is difficult in Ecuador. The patient must present severe symptoms to access a free examination in a public institution. The alternative is private laboratories, where the cost can exceed $ 100.

This creates inequity in the distribution of tests. An analysis by EL UNIVERSO of the official figures of the Ministry of Public Health (MSP) shows that there is a great difference in the amount of tests conducted between the cantons. Only two, San Cristóbal and Santa Cruz (in Galapagos), meet the expectations of the World Health Organization (WHO). In contrast, 199 do not meet even half the parameter.

The WHO determined that in a testing scheme that detects all cases, the ideal would be to do as many tests until obtaining ten negative results for each positive. This was one of the conclusions of a press conference held in March last year, which was chaired by the director general of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

We would like to see countries test at a level of ten negatives for every positive, as a general benchmark for a system where enough tests are done to detect all cases.

Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO Health Emergencies Program

Ecuador is far from meeting that expectation. The MSP report issued last Tuesday shows that out of every three tests carried out, one is positive. Official figures up to March 29 show that almost half of the country’s cantons (112) have carried out tests at the same level, but there are others that are even further below.

There are 23 cantons where one out of every two tests is positive. The most serious situation is in Santa Clara and Mera, in Pastaza; San Miguel de los Bancos, in Pichincha; La Concordia, in Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas; and Pichincha, in Manabí.

In contrast, twelve tests are registered for each confirmed case in San Cristóbal and in Santa Cruz, ten. Other cantons that have a high testing rate in comparison with the rest of the country are Taisha, Twintza and Huamboya, in Morona Santiago.

In the most populated cities, the situation is different. In Quito and Guayaquil, there is one confirmed positive case for every four tests; and in Cuenca, one for every three tests.

Search for specifics of the distribution of PCR tests by canton here:

Epidemiologist Daniel Simancas, director of the Center for Research in Public Health and Clinical Epidemiology of the UTE University, explains that the testing of the population must always start from a confirmed case.

When having a positive test, he points out, you have to interview that person to identify at least ten people with whom they had contact and they should also have tests, whether or not they have symptoms. If more positives appear on that list, new contacts must be identified for further testing, and so on. This methodology, says Simancas, would make it possible to meet the expectations of the WHO.

In Ecuador, this scheme has not been applied. What happens here, adds Simancas, is that the tests are concentrated among hospitalized patients and very few are used for screening in the community.

Although many tests are used, the latter allows locating people who carry the virus and are asymptomatic. “There is less probability of detecting a positive asymptomatic, but they are the greatest contagious spreaders. They are responsible for 60% of infections, ”says Simancas.

The specialist recalls that the WHO recommended to countries that removing the confinement of the population, the country should have 5% positivity in the tests; that is, that there is one positive for every 20 tests.

Another way to compare the level of testing between localities is through the number of tests performed in relation to the number of inhabitants. Taking this criterion into account, Ecuador is the country in the region that has carried out the fewest exams: only 66 per thousand inhabitants. It is very far from Chile, the leader, which registers 607, or 9 times greater.

At the canton level there are also abysmal differences. The municipalities with the least tests per capita are Guamote (Chimborazo), with only six tests per thousand inhabitants, and Mocache (Los Ríos), with seven. They are followed by four cantons of Guayas: Simón Bolívar, with seven; Nobol and Alfredo Baquerizo Moreno, with eleven; and Santa Lucia, with twelve.

Those figures contrast with the Galápagos cantons, which lead the list. In Santa Cruz, 387 examinations have been carried out for every thousand inhabitants; in Isabela, 355; and in San Cristóbal, 308.

Among the most populated cities, the differences are also very marked. Quito registers 148 tests for every thousand inhabitants; Cuenca, 70; and Guayaquil, 39.

Read the original coverage from El Universo at

Informing and sharing news on marine life, flora, fauna and conservation in the Galápagos Islands since 2017
© SOS Galápagos, 2021


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s