COE orders students back to class and raises capacity limits as Covid-19 cases decline
The national Emergency Operations Committee announced new Covid-19 pandemic rules Wednesday, fully reopening schools in most of the country and increasing capacity limits for businesses, offices and public events.
“We are seeing rapid improvement in pandemic conditions, which allows us to make these changes,” Juan Zapata, COE president, said after the meeting. “We anticipate making further reductions to restrictions in the coming weeks.”
Last week, the COE had allowed the reopening of schools in provinces in yellow and green pandemic alert status but said attendance was “optional,” left to the discretion of parents. The new rule makes the return to classrooms mandatory. “We are advising schools to maintain social distancing and other health protocols but the intent of today’s action is to restore the country’s public education system to full functionality,” Zapata said.
The COE raised capacity limits for provinces under yellow alert status, which includes Cuenca, Quito and Guayaquil, for indoor businesses, including restaurants, bars and shopping centers, to 60 percent and increased the outdoor limit to 85 percent. Concerts and other outdoor public events are now allowed at up to 75 percent capacity.
Proof of vaccination entry requirements for businesses is now optional but the COE said it continues to encourage that they be maintained.
In its report to the COE, the Health Ministry said that the number of Covid-19 infections in the country continues a strong downward trend.
“The epidemiological curve stabilized two weeks ago and cases began to decline 10 days ago,” Deputy Health Minister José Ruales told the COE. He said that almost all Covid-19 cases in Ecuador are now of the Omicron variant.
He said that Covid hospital admissions are beginning to decline. “The stress on the health care system is being reduced. Many of the public hospitals have seen a 20 percent reduction in cases being treated since the start of the week and we expect the decline to continue.”
Ruales added that Covid cases peaked at 11,000 a day on January 15 and 16, dropping to an average of about 3,500 a day on Monday and Tuesday. “Our case count is only a small fraction of those infected due to testing limitations,” he said. “Fortunately, most cases are mild and people are not coming in for tests or medical treatment. We believe 15 percent to 20 percent of the population has been infected with Omicron and most have recovered.”