May 4, 2020 / 10:57 PM / in 21 days

Ecuador exceeds 30,000 confirmed coronavirus cases

FILE PHOTO: Doctor Samuel Gutierrez, part of the Ecuadorian health ministry's rapid response team for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), looks at images of the lungs of an 81-year-old man who is suspected of having the disease, at the man's home in Guayaquil, Ecuador April 29, 2020. REUTERS/Santiago Arcos

QUITO (Reuters) - Ecuador on Monday exceeded 30,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, while the government launched a plan to start gradually relaxing quarantine measures that have been in place since mid-March.

The South American country has confirmed 31,881 cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, with 1,569 reported deaths and a further 1,336 deaths likely a result of the virus. Authorities have carried out 80,171 tests, which includes both rapid tests and molecular biological (polymerase chain reaction or PCR) testing.

The government has warned the actual death toll is much higher than reports indicate, particularly in the largest city of Guayaquil, where corpses were left in homes or on streets for hours.

President Lenin Moreno said last week that the number of new coronavirus cases had stabilized and death counts were falling after the outbreak overwhelmed sanitary authorities in Guayaquil and ravaged the economy.

Following a month of strict quarantine to curb the pandemic, the government said it would now allow some businesses to operate through phone and internet services for home deliveries, while also extending the hours of operation for taxis.

The International Monetary Fund on Saturday confirmed it had approved $643 million in emergency assistance for Ecuador, citing the devastating effects the virus had on economy by plummeting oil prices and global demand.[L1N2CK058]

The country will maintain a 15-hour curfew, keep its borders closed and prohibit public transport.

Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Writing by Sarah Kinosian; Editing by Aurora Ellis

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