The Cuenca Emergency Operations Committee (COE) voted Friday night to maintain yellow light health emergency restrictions but is asking the national COE for permission to begin the nightly curfew at 7 p.m. instead of the current 11 p.m. It is also asking the national COE to allow a nighttime ban on liquor sales and for a reduction of gatherings from 25 to 10 people.
The later curfew and increased gatherings size was approved last week to apply nationally to all cantons under yellow light status.
“We need these modifications due to the increase in local coronavirus cases and the pressure it is putting on our health care system,” Mayor Pedro Palacios said after the meeting. On Friday afternoon, there were only three intensive care beds available at the IESS and public hospitals in Cuenca.
On Thursday, the director of the IESS hospital and a committee of local doctors urged the local COE to return Cuenca to red light status due to pressure on critical care beds.
Several Cuenca restaurant owners objected to the possibility of a 7 p.m. nightly curfew. “This would mean eliminating evening dining,” say Gustavo Parra, owner of a restaurant on Paseo de los Cañaris. “We are already in terrible financial distress and to take away the option of evening meals could put some of us out of business. We would have to close down at 6 to meet the curfew. We ask the COE to reconsider the plan and at least leave the curfew at 9 p.m. like it has been for the last month.” Calling in to a talk radio program, four other restaurant owners made similar pleas.
In an interview after the COE meeting, Palacios repeated an earlier objection to decisions on health restrictions being made at the national and not the local level. “We need the ability to make decisions for our community that match local conditions.”
Since June 22, 508 new cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Cuenca, 30% of all cases reported since the first case in March. Of Cuenca’s 1,656 cases, about 1350 have recovered.
During the next week, Palacios says that extra personnel will be added to buses and trams to make sure social distancing rules are followed and that the Citizen Guard and National Police will add nighttime patrols to control public gatherings and drinking.
Cuenca prefect and current and past Assembly presidents test positive
Cuenca Prefect Yaku Pérez announced Thursday that he has tested positive for Covid-19 and is in quarantine at his parents’ home in Quevedo, Los Ríos Province. He said he is experiencing fever, headaches and muscle pains but has, so far, not had breathing problems. Also on Thursday, National Assembly President César Litardo said he was infected with the virus and was undergoing quarantine at home in Quito. In addition, Litardo’s predecessor in the Assembly presidency and current Assembly member, Jose Sorrano, has also been diagnosed with Covid-19 and is in a Cuenca hospital due to respiratory complications.
Tram adds extra units to meet demand
Two more five-car units have been added to the tram schedule due to increasing passenger demand. The additional units mean that eight units are on the tracks from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. According to tram director Carolina Ormaza, the system has four more units in reserve. In addition to increased demand, Ormaza said that the additional units are necessary to relieve standing-room crowding and to meet Covid-19 social distancing rules. She said that during peak hours, tram employees are asking some passengers to wait for the next train.
Interprovincial buses will connect Azuay, Loja and El Oro
The Azuay Transportation Commission has authorized interprovincial bus travel from Azuay Province to Loja and El Oro Provinces. Commission Director Edison Moscoso said he hopes that transit to the rest of the country will open next week.