Cuenca stays yellow but will ask feds again for tighter restrictions; Authorities target public transit, markets for social distancing violations

Jul 18, 2020 | 15 comments

The Cuenca Emergency Operations Committee voted to keep the city under yellow light restrictions as several members lashed out at the federal government for not allowing a tightening of the rules to combat an increase of Covid-19 cases.

Hospital officials have warned of an increase number of Covid-19 patients needing intensive care in recent weeks.

“We will push our case more aggressively next week when we meet with national representatives,” Mayor Pedro Palacios said after the Friday meeting. “Minister Iván Granda and national risk management director Rommel Salazar have agreed to talk to us and we will detail the reasons why we need the addititional controls.”

The city’s request two weeks ago to begin the curfew at 7 p.m. instead of 11 p.m., to ban the nighttime sale of alcohol and to restrict the size of public gatherings was rejected by the national COE on Thursday.

The changes are needed due to demands of Covid-19 patients on public hospitals, according to the Cuenca COE although a regional Ministry of Health representative reported Friday that the pressure has eased in recent days as more intensive care beds have been added and hospitals received more ventilators.

In addition to repeating its request for modifications to national yellow light rules, local authorities urged intensification of enforcement of social distancing and face mask rules as well as what it called “general disorder” at municipal markets.

Three Cuenca COE members said they were prepared to return the city to red light status if the government does not agree to the changes.

On Thursday, the city, province and Azuay governor’s office coordinated a sweep of the informal vendors near the Nueve de Octubre and Rotary markets in the historic district. National Police, Cuenca Citizen Guard and army personnel disbanded more than 50 informal sales stalls and fined 22 people for not wearing face masks.

According to Azuay Province Governor Xavier Martínez, violations of health emergency rules at city markets, particularly Nueve de Octubre and Feria LIbre, are a leading cause of the increase in Covid-19 cases.

Also on Thursday, the Cuenca transportation office, EMOV, assigned 50 additional personnel to monitor bus and tram ridership to enforce social distancing and face mask requirements. Police were called on two occasions when bus riders refused to obey EMOV officers’ orders. Under yellow light restrictions, buses are only allowed to carry 45 passengers but EMOV officers say that bus drivers are not controlling entry of passengers despite the threat of a $200 fine.


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