Business and industry groups are criticizing the state of emergency declared for Guayaquil and El Oro Province due to the emergence of the delta variant of the Covid-19 virus. “We cannot stand another round of restrictions and lockdowns,” says Pablo Bermeo, spokesman for the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Ecuador. “We are just beginning to recover from the devastation of the last year and a half and new limits on hours and capacity will send many businesses into bankruptcy.”
On Wednesday, President Guillermo Lasso declared a 15-day emergency in Guayaquil and El Oro Province in response to the discovery of 10 cases of the delta variant in Guayaquil and Machala. The order reduces indoor capacity at businesses, including restaurants, and on public transportation and imposes a curfew in El Oro Province as well as the shut-down of inter-provincial bus travel.
“This is terrible for industries and businesses that are trying to recover and it’s terrible for employees who may lose their jobs,” says Carlos Zaldumbide, president of the Quito Chamber of Commerce. “Everyone is wondering if emergencies will be called in every city and province when a case of delta is discovered? The virus is going to spread. Doctors tell us it’s inevitable and we cannot have an over-reaction that punishes businesses and workers. Are we going to be like Australia where 18 cases put four million people in total lockdown? The government must use common sense.”
According to Zaldumbide, instead of new restrictions, the focus should be on getting the population vaccinated. “We are doing well with the program. We had record numbers of vaccinations Wednesday and Thursday and we must maintain and increase the pace to return the country to a state of normalcy.”
As of Friday morning, more than five million Ecuadorians have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, with almost two million receiving two.
Bermeo claims the restrictions in Guayaquil and El Oro come at time when new cases and deaths are dropping. “Look at the numbers and you see the country is doing well in recovering from the pandemic. The emergencies declared by the president are a disproportionate reaction to the new variant and for the sake of our social and economic life we must act rationally.”
Bermeo says he opposes plans by several cities to mandate a vaccine card for entry to stores, restaurants, shopping centers and public transportation. “If this is the only way we can maintain our businesses I would have to accept it but I oppose any order restricting personal freedom.”