May 21, 2020 / 6:02 AM / 2 months ago

Ecuador's largest city eases quarantine as COVID-19 deaths decline

A cell phone repair shop attends customers in a shopping mall as the city allowed some businesses to reopen on Wednesday following a fall in daily deaths due to the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Guayaquil, Ecuador May 20, 2020.REUTERS/Santiago Arcos

QUITO (Reuters) - Ecuador’s largest city allowed some businesses to reopen on Wednesday following a fall in daily deaths from the coronavirus pandemic that had for weeks required the city to remain in quarantine.

Guayaquil in March and April faced a brutal outbreak of the virus that left hospitals overwhelmed and authorities struggling to collect the bodies of presumed COVID-19 victims.

Public transportation and private vehicles were again circulating in the coastal city on Wednesday and open air markets and shopping malls began opening their doors. Bars, restaurants and movie theaters remain closed.

Guayaquil’s municipal government said in a social media video that daily death rates linked to COVID-19 in Guayaquil had dropped to around 10 per day in May from a peak of 460 in April.

“In the home there is hunger, outside there is the coronavirus,” Mayor Cynthia Viteri told reporters. “We have to find a balance so that people can work and take care of themselves.”

Municipal offices opened to the public with limited hours. The city is maintaining a curfew and some restrictions on vehicle traffic. Domestic and international flights remain halted.

Ecuador officially has 34,854 infections and 2,888 deaths from the virus. But the government recognizes that the figures are probably much higher because of limited testing.

Reporting by Yuri Garcia; writing by Alexandra Valencia and Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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