700,000 vaccine doses arrive Saturday as new vaccination plan is rolled out; City considers reducing tram fare; Cases drop but IESS hospital is still full

May 27, 2021 | 21 comments

The Health Ministry says that 700,000 doses of the Chinese Sinovac vaccine will arrive in Quito on Saturday. Of the total doses, the People’s Republic of China donated 200,000 while 500,000 were purchased. “This is wonderful news in light of the recent shipment delays of the other vaccines,” said Carlos Larrea, Ecuador’s ambassador to China. “We are very grateful to the government of China for expediting the delivery.”

Health Minister Ximena Garzón

Also on Wednesday, the new government provided details of its vaccination plan. “Immediately, we are expanding cooperative arrangements with municipalities, universities and other organizations to improve the efficiency of the program,” said Health Minister Ximena Garzón. “We are also developing brigades of health workers to go to the homes of the most vulnerable and those with mobility problems to provide inoculations. Many of these people have been unable to come to vaccination centers so we will go to them.”

Garzón said vaccinations will soon be available at election voting stations as details are worked out with the National Elections Committee. “This will allow us to provide a greater number of vaccinations in a shorter period of time as doses arrive in the country. Because people are familiar with the election process and the voting locations, it will offer greater degree of convenience.”

Garzón added that vaccinations schedules will continue according to the plans of the previous government as changes are implemented.

Officials consider dropping tram fare
The committee overseeing the operation of Cuenca’s tram system say they are looking into dropping the fare from 35 to 30 cents, matching city bus fares. Committee member Jorge Moscoso says the move would increase ridership and align fares with those of the bus system, making integration of the two systems easier later in the year. He also said the committtee is also considering dropping the $1 single-ticket price by offering a package of tickets.

In addition, he said that the electronic tram card may soon be multi-functional, useful for the city’s bike rental program and at municipal parking lots.

In a radio interview, Moscoso said the city is very pleased with the tram’s first year of operation. “In a number of ways, the pandemic has been good for us since we have been able to test and verify the system without the ridership we would have had otherwise,” he said. “The train is operating very smoothly with few problems and passengers are pleased with the service. The bad side of the pandemic is that the reduced ridership makes it more difficult to develop accurate projections.” He estimated that ridership will increase rapidly as the pandemic subsides.

Covid cases drop but IESS hospital is still full
Despite a drop in new Covid-19 cases, the ICU units at Cuenca’s José Carrasco Arteaga IESS are still at full capacity. “We still have a waiting list for service but the list is shorter,” says hospital director Fabian Albarracín. He said that the 28-day state of emergency was effective in reducing disease transmission but he is concerned that cases will increase as the restrictions are relaxed. “I continue to urge caution since the pandemic in Ecuador is far from over.”

According to IESS admission records, the majority of Covid patients are from outside of Azuay Province. “Many of the rural communities in other provinces do not have adequate health facilities so we accommodate the patients from those areas,” Albarracín said. “Cases in Cuenca have dropped dramatically.”