The Cuenca municipal council has petitioned the government to maintain all Covid-19 health emergency restrictions in the city for the foreseeable future. Mayor Pedro Palacios agrees. “May 4 is too early to make any changes based on current conditions,” he said in response to the government’s plan to relax some rules beginning next week.
Nine of Cuenca’s 15 city council members signed an open letter urging President Lenin Moreno to allow restrictions to remain in place locally.
“Until we have verifiable data that there is improvement in controlling the virus, we want to maitain the status quo,” Palacios said. “The local testing program has been grossly inadequate and has not provided the guidance to suggest that changes are in order,” he said. “Our main concern is protecting public health and, specifically, maintaining hospital capacity for those who are sick.”
To back up his claim, Palacios cited the results of testing of El Arenal market vendors Saturday morning that showed 15 percent of 244 tested positive for Covid-19. The results prompted the mayor to suspend all activity at the Narancay market, where El Arenal vendors have been temporarily relocated.
Palacios, who was present for some of the testing, said most of those testing positive either showed symptoms of illness or admitted that they had recently been sick.
Azuay Province Prefect Yaku Perez echoed Palacios’ concerns. “It would be sheer madness to attempt to return to any kind of normalcy at this point. The national testing program has been a disaster and provides us little useful information for planning purposes,” he said. “You only have to look at Guayaquil to see the magnitude of the failure and I don’t want to see that happen here. Even though compliance with the rules has not been perfect here, it has been enough to keep the spread under control.”
Perez said his immediate concern is making sure the hungry are fed. “The emergency has put a terrible burden on Azuay’s poor and we are asking the government to provide funding and additional support for more meals and household essentials.”
Ecuador Interior Minister Maria Paul Romo said Sunday morning that the government would consider requests for exemptions from rule changes on a canton by canton basis. Later in the day, Moreno said that local Emergency Operations Committees would make the decisions.