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Cuenca maintains ‘red light’ status on concerns about hospital capacity

The Cuenca Emergency Operations Committee voted Friday night to maintain current restrictions on personal and vehicular mobility and business operations through next week. It had been widely expected that the COE would adopt relaxed “yellow light” rules but concerns about hospital capacity prompted the committee to maintain the status quo.

Dr. Xavier Barrera

“We have reached full capacity to treat Covid patients at the public and social security hospitals so we had no option but to remain under red light conditions,” Cuenca Mayor Pedro Palacios said after the meeting. “We are in the process of adding more intensive care beds, and we have the equipment and personnel to do this, but this will take several days. We cannot risk the public health at this moment.”

Another COE member, Dr. Xavier Barrera, said Cuenca and Azuay Province have been successful in controlling the spread of Covid-19 but it would be risky to lift personal restrictions now. “From the medical viewpoint, we have done well in containing the disease but the containment must continue for a little longer so we are confident we are past the critical stage. We must have the medical resources in place to guarantee this.”

Barrera, who is also a municipal councilman, added that the number of Covid-19 cases has increased in “manageable fashion” in Cuenca, with the current total standing at 566.

Business leaders and the union representing city bus owners expressed disappointment at the COE decision. “We understand why the red light was maintained but many of our members are out of resources,” said Manolo Solis, president of Chamber of Transportation. “We also regret that we cannot provide the transportation necessary to get the city back to work.”

Despite continuation of the red light status for another week, Palacios said that many functions are resuming operation based on agreements with the national government. Among them are the cantonal and provincial courts, which will reopen on May 18, the resumption of construction at more than 20 projects and the reopening of most manufacturing operations in the industrial park.

In addition, Palacios said final testing for the city’s tram system is underway, with the beginning of commercial service scheduled for July or August.