The Cuenca Municipal Council voted Friday night to ease most Covid-19 pandemic restrictions and, for the first time in almost 18 months, allowed bars and night clubs to reopen.
Among the changes approved was an increase in restaurant capacity to 75 percent, up from 50 percent and 30 percent for outdoor and indoor seating. Capacity for public events, including concerts and sporting events increases to 70 percent from 30 percent while social clubs, churches, museums and exhibition openings can increase their capacity to 75 percent.
Bars, discotheques and night clubs are allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity, as are game rooms, swimming pools and licensed brothels. The increase to 50 percent capacity also applies to gyms, dance studios and art and exercise classes.
In addition to boosting capacity limits, the council will allow restaurants and bars to remain open until 2 a.m. and allow private vehicles to circulate from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m. Previously, unless drivers had an emergency, vehicles were not allowed on public streets past 11 p.m.
The use of private and public sports facilities, parks and other municipal public areas will now allow group participation while only individual activity was permitted before.
“We are very pleased we are able to make these adjustments in our effort to recover from the pandemic and we look forward in the near future to eliminating all restrictions,” Councilman Alfredo Aguilar said Friday night. “Our health ministry talks about a return to normal by January and Cuenca is leading the charge.”
Aguilar cited international recognition of Cuenca’s rapid recovery from the virus. “We are in the news because of our campaign to protect the public is working,” he said.
On Thursday, Covid-19 researcher Paul Elliot of Imperial College London singled out Cuenca for its remarkable recovery from the virus. “Ecuador, and particularly the Andean city of Cuenca, are showing us how we can emerge from the pandemic. Cuenca has vaccinated 95 percent of its elderly population as well as those with pre-existing medical conditions, and is now seeing only a handful of new cases. It’s truly amazing that a poor South American community is leading the world in recovering from the pandemic.”