Covid booster vaccine availability expands; Tourism sets holiday records; IESS still faces funding shortfall; Lasso delivers docs in National Assembly probe
The Ministry of Health is offering Covid-19 booster shots to residents 65 and older in eight more provinces beginning today. The boosters are also now available in the urban districts of Quito.
Eligible residents in Chimborazo, Pastaza, Cotopaxi, Tungurahua, Los Ríos, Bolívar, Santa Elena and the Galapagos can receive boosters beginning Thursday, November 4 at vaccination centers in their provinces.
Last week, older residents of Azuay, Cañar, Morona Santiago, Carchi, Imbabura, Sucumbíos and Esmeraldas, Manabí, Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas and Guayas Provinces began receiving boosters.
All boosters will be the European-made AstraZeneca vaccine, the health ministry says.
Tourism sets record during holidays
According to transportation and tourism officials, the number of people traveling over the five-day holiday weekend broke all previous records. “We knew there would be more than a million, which would have been a record in itself, but we are astounded that 2,300,000 were on the roads between last Friday and Wednesday,” said Raul Cabrera, spokesman for the Tourism Ministry. “Obviously, people wanted to get out and celebrate after the Covid restrictions were relaxed.”
According to Cabrera, the main destinations for travelers were Cuenca, Qutio and the beaches. “As I understand it, Cuenca broke all previous attendance records for their festivals and the beaches were very crowded.”
According to the Ministry of Transportation, 879,000 traveled on inter-provincial buses between Friday and Wednesday, a 280 percent increase over the same period in 2020, and a 40 percent increase over 2019, before the pandemic began. The ministry estimated that another 1,440,000 traveled in private vehicles during the holiday.
The National Police said that traffic “moved smoothly” throughout the country expect in locations were roadwork was occurring. Almost 50,000 police monitored traffic and festival activities during the holidays, the police command said.
IESS still faces funding shortfall
Although the proposed 2022 budget includes a substantial funding increase for Ecuador’s Social Security system, its board of directors says it still falls short of covering of all needs. The budget presented last week to the National Assembly provides $1.59 billion for IESS but board members say the system needs $2.8 billion to restore it to full fiscal health.
According to officials, IESS faces immediate “challenges” in restocking medicines in its health system as well as in hiring medical specialists. They add that the pension fund will be adequate for five to seven years but will need additional money after that.
Advocacy groups for the elderly criticized the budget for not restoring the 40 percent allocation the government provided IESS until 2015 when it was eliminated by former president Rafael Correa. “Both [former president Linen] Moreno and [President Guillermo] Lasso promised to restore it but they have not followed through,” says Edison Lima, president of Organizations of Senior Citizens of Ecuador. “Despite all the talk about taking care of the elderly it continues to be a low priority when it involves government funding.”
Lasso delivers documents in Pandora Papers probe
President Guillermo Lasso’s attorney delivered a notarized document to the National Assembly commission investigating his overseas financial holdings on Wednesday. According to attorney Eduardo Carmignani, the information “should put to rest claims that the president acted illegally” in liquidating his overseas accounts in accordance to a 2017 law.
The charge that Lasso had violated the law was made by Assemblywoman Mónica Palacios (UNES), a member of the Constitutional Guarantees Commission reviewing Lasso’s investments.
Lasso claims that the investigation by the Constitutional Guarantees Commission has no legal authority and that only the Comptroller and Attorney General can conduct a legitimate investigation. Carmignani said that the delivery of documents to the commission was done “as a courtesy.”
The Pandora Papers, compiled by a consortium of international journalists about off-shore accounts held by current and former politicians, made no claims that the holdings violated the law.