Hospitals in Ecuador's capital overwhelmed by COVID-19, doctors say

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QUITO (Reuters) -Ecuador's health system is under severe strain from a spike in COVID-19 and some hospitals in the capital Quito are working above capacity to treat patients, doctors said on Tuesday.

Ecuador suffered a brutal outbreak of coronavirus in early 2020, primarily in the largest city of Guayaquil. Authorities controlled the situation after several months, but in recent weeks have seen cases jump in cities around the country.

"The saturation of the health system is not only in Quito but at the national level," Dr. Victor Alvarez, president of the doctors association of the state of Pichincha, where Quito is located, told reporters. "Seeing images of patients lying on the ground, or perhaps on a military mattress, receiving oxygen in emergency units, that's sad."

In some Quito hospitals, entire families wait in emergency areas in hopes of being given an open bed, Dr. Edison Ramos, a coordinator at Carlos Andrade Marin hospital, said in a local TV interview.

Ecuador registered 2,201 new infections in the last 24 hours, raising the total number of cases to 327,325, according to official data. A total of 16,780 people either died of COVID-19 or were suspected of having it but passed away before being diagnosed.

The government on Monday enacted new measures including a restriction on highway travel, banning the sale of alcoholic beverages and the closure of beaches for the Easter holiday.

The national vaccination campaign has moved slowly and has been clouded by accusations of influence peddling.

The municipality of Guayaquil on Tuesday announced that working hours and business operations will end at 4 p.m., and that movement of privately owned vehicles would be restricted between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m. the following day.

"Believing that this is already over ... is causing us to experience a situation almost at the risk of becoming that of last year," Guayaquil Mayor Cynthia Viteri told local media.

(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia, writing by Brian EllsworthEditing by Marguerita Choy and Grant McCool)