Ecuador extends virus 'state of exception' for 2 months

People respecting social distancing measures in Ecuador's capital Quito

Ecuador, one of the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus in Latin America, has extended its "state of exception" for two months as it struggles to contain the deadly illness.

Ecuador, a country of 17.5 million, has so far confirmed almost 4,000 COVID-19 deaths and more than 47,000 cases. That translates to 22 deaths per 100,000 citizens.

President Lenin Moreno wrote on Twitter late on Monday that he had "signed the decree" extending the state of exception -- in place since March 16 -- until August 13.

"While the measures we've taken have had results against the #COVID19 pandemic, we cannot let down our guard," Moreno said.

Ecuador has suffered the fourth most fatalities from the disease in Latin America, behind Brazil, Mexico and Peru, according to an AFP count.

That figure does not take into account the 2,600 extra deaths the government suspects were linked to the coronavirus but not reported as such.

The state of exception allows Moreno to impose restrictions including a nighttime curfew, mobilize the armed forces and suspend civil liberties such as the freedom to assemble.

While lockdown measures have been gradually lifted since mid-May, schools and borders remain closed.

People respecting social distancing measures in Ecuador's capital Quito