Ecuador is one of a very few countries in the world which currently allows travelers from the U.S. to enter the country, and even here, there is a mandatory 14-day quarantine. However, if you are over 65 and can show a recent clean Covid test, you are permitted to quarantine at home. You have to sign a promise to abide by the quarantine restrictions.
An acquaintance recently returned from a visit to the states with a plane change in Florida and was granted permission to quarantine at home in Cuenca. I was disturbed and angered to learn that within 24 hours, she had broken quarantine to shop in a large grocery store. She had sufficient funds to hire someone to go shopping for her, but she insisted that she “had to touch everything for herself.”
Two days later, she went to an indoor café to use their free Wi-fi. She assured a friend that she probably wouldn’t get caught, and “everybody is doing it.”
I am incensed. This is not a matter of opinion or politics. It is a stark black and white issue.
Many countries of the world won’t even allow gringos to visit, much less stay. We are allowed to visit and stay here at the pleasure of Ecuador, which has imposed a simple quarantine requirement as a precondition to entry. Abiding by this simple requirement is common decency.
She lied to our hosts, promising to adhere to the quarantine conditions. The government of Ecuador has every right to simply say that those damn gringos can’t be trusted, and join the EU in defusing entry to people from the U.S.
This is shameful. As a representative gringa, she has shamed the United States and the Cuenca expat community. I am ashamed of her behavior and furious that I may now, as another expat, be grouped in with her as just another ugly American.
This is a criminal offense. The penalty for breaking quarantine is a $300 fine and one to three years in prison. I’m not sure how that is classified here, but in the U.S., that would be called a felony. Since this is a condition of her visa, she could also be subject to deportation.
This is medically irresponsible. She has endangered the community. She has endangered me and my wife. She said she needed to “touch everything herself.” I immediately thought of my Ecuadorian friend’s 86-year old grandmother picking up the tomato that was just put back. I am 76 years old, and would also be in a high-risk category. I resent the cavalier attitude that places me at risk, however unlikely. I also think of all the front-line health care workers, who are daily risking their lives trying to fight the pandemic. Show some respect.
What is our moral responsibility when we hear of this flaunting of privilege? Do we call the police? Immigration? No one likes a snitch, and when told of this situation, some of my expat friends have clutched their pearls and advised me to just let it go. I can’t do that. As a former prosecutor, I find it hard to stand by and watch this selfish, thoughtless and criminal act. And as a former defense attorney with a few decades of experience, I can think of no defense in law or logic to mitigate this offense.
On the other hand, my wife was her friend until this disclosure, and I don’t feel it is my place to break that confidence, so I am now simply describing the situation without naming her, hoping that others will take heed.
I understand that a mutual Ecuadorian friend was so furious (He had a relative who was a front-line hospital worker) that he called 9-1-1 and reported her. The police told him that they would go and pick her up. I don’t know if anything has actually been done.
Because of this behavior, home quarantine is a privilege that may be denied to others in the future. Shame on her.