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Hundreds wait hours for coronavirus care in Ecuador capital

QUITO – Hundreds of people with breathing problems waited for hours in long lines in Ecuador's capital Tuesday seeking medical attention and tests to determine if they were infected with the new coronavirus.

Hospitals and funeral homes have been overwhelmed for weeks in Quito, where city officials have reported 12,747 confirmed cases and 605 deaths so far in the pandemic.

The result is that long lines of people observing social distancing snake from hospitals, with waits of up to four hours before they can undergo clinical examinations and a quick coronavirus test.

Health Minister Juan Carlos Zevallos said Quito is “in a critical situation.”

“There is a very big demand for hospital beds and beds that have been adapted to care for critical patients who require ventilation and intensive care beds,” he said. “We are in a position that doesn't compare in any way to what is happening in the rest of Latin America.”

Infections have escalated since authorities decided to loosen social isolation measures at the beginning of June and eased up even more earlier this month.

For Ecuador as a whole, 82,279 confirmed cases have been reported since the end of February, when the first COVID-19 case was detected. COVID-19 has killed 5,584 people, by the official tally, though experts say 3,353 more deaths probably were caused by the virus.