Ecuador struggles for test supplies
A major laboratory in Ecuador’s capital closed and halted processing coronavirus tests Friday because technicians did not have basic supplies like tubes, pipettes, masks and gloves needed to safely analyse the specimens.
The Biotechnology Institute at Quitos Central University had been expected to receive and process tens of thousands of tests but its director said only 5,150 could be done before running out of equipment. “We can’t process any more tests because of a technical failing,” Lucy Baldeón said. Ecuador is one of nations hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic in Latin America. As major cities like Quito begin to reopen, authorities have insisted on the need to increases testing. But those efforts have been complicated by corruption scandals, delays in acquiring tests and now shortages of essential lab materials.
“We have the tests and we can’t use them,” city councilman Bernardo Abad said. “They were purchased but the city didn’t prepare.”
The Central University lab is one of two contracted directly by Quito officials to boost the city’s testing capability. The other has not yet begun processing specimens. The Ministry of Public Health operates its own labs and conducted 16,379 tests in Quito from March to May. That testing is expected to continue, though to date has fallen short of what many believe is needed in the city of 2.7m people. Ecuador has done 133,458 molecular and rapid COVID-19 tests in all, according to the health ministry, and nation’s per capita rate trails far behind countries like Chile and Peru that have greatly expanded testing.
Protests to occur throughout Australia on Saturday
Black Lives Matter advocates and refugee activists will hold protests throughout Australia on Saturday, despite warnings from health authorities they could lead to Covid-19 outbreaks. Australia’s chief medical officer, Prof Brendan Murphy, said on Friday, “These sort of events really are dangerous”. However the prime minister, Scott Morrison, announced on the same day that major sports stadiums may allow 10,000 people by July.
It follows protests last weekend, when people took to the streets campaigning for an end to Aboriginal deaths in custody. There have been 437 known Aboriginal deaths since the royal commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody delivered its final report in 1991, and yet despite this, change has been slow. The protests were sparked in solidarity with the US following the brutal death of unarmed man George Floyd on 25 May.
One man was diagnosed with the virus following the Melbourne protests, with health authorities saying he was likely infected prior to the rally. Victoria police issued fines of $1652 each to the three people who organised the protest.
More protests took place in Sydney and Perth on Friday night. About 300 people who gathered in Sydney’s city were outnumbered by about 600 police officers, in an event deemed unlawful because police were not formally notified. The peaceful protest was also brief, ending around 8pm.
Thousands of protesters will gather in Perth for Saturday’s protest at Langley Park. Organisers have ignored Premier Mark McGowan’s pleas to delay the protest until after the coronavirus pandemic is over. Meanwhile, refugee activists will spread themselves out in Melbourne in an attempt to avoid the same fines issued to the organisers of last weekend’s rally. The group said its rallies will have no more than 20 people in eight different locations to protest against the indefinite detention of asylum seekers.
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