The national Emergency Operations Committee (COE) has extended the nightly curfew and prohibited public gatherings of more than 25 people in 14 of Ecuador’s 24 provinces. Beginning Thursday, the curfew begins at 9 p.m. instead of 11 p.m. in 10 sierra provinces and 4 coastal and Amazon provinces.
Interior Minister María Paula Romo said the changes were necessary due to the continuing rise in Covid-19 cases. “In a number of these provinces, we have reached or are approaching the capacity of our hospitals and clinics to accommodate the most serious cases of the coronavirus,” she said. “We take these new measures reluctantly but believe they are necessary to control the spread of the disease.”
In its Wednesday emergency meeting, the COE denied Cuenca’s request to begin the curfew at 7 p.m. and did not comment on another request to restrict the nighttime sale of liquor.
Romo said the government cannot allow individual cities to modify rules within the “traffic light” system. “Local cantons are free to choose red, yellow and green light protocols to fit local needs but we cannot allow changes within those designations. We need to maintain national and regional oversight of pandemic conditions and this will be impossible if communities make their own rules,” she said.
The sierra provinces affected by the new rules are Azuay, Cañar, Carchi, Tungurahua, Chimborazo, Pichincha, Imbabura, Cotopaxi, Bolívar and Loja. Coastal provinces under the adjusted rules are Esmeraldas and Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas while they apply to Morona Santiago and Zamora Chinchipe in the Amazonian region.
According to the latest report from the Ministry of Health, the 14 provinces affected by the new order have recorded more than 50 percent of the country’s 77,257 Covid-19 cases.
Cold temperatures could lead to virus spread
Cuenca health officials are warning that cooler temperatures could aggravate efforts to control the spread of Covid-19. “People will spend more time indoors as we move into the cold season in late July and August and this often means being in closer proximity to other people,” says Jorge Herredia, assistant director of Cuenca’s IESS health clinics. “We ask that residents take extra precautions when they are in enclosed areas with those who are not part of the immediate family,” he said.
On Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, temperatures in central Cuenca dropped to three to four degrees (37 to 39 Fahrenheit) while lows were zero or one degree in San Joaquin, west of the city. Light snow was recorded in the Cajas Mountains with accumulations of three to four inches at higher elevations.
Interprovincial bus companies ‘near collapse’
Abel Gómez, president of an organization representing Ecuador’s interprovincial and intercantonal bus companies said Wednesday that many companies face bankruptcy. “One result of the health emergency may be the destruction of the long-distance bus system in Ecuador,” he said. “We have been out of service for more than four months and some owners tell me they will not be available when the crisis is over.”
Gómez is urging the cantonal Emergency Operations Committees to clear bus routes for operation as quickly as possible, saying that the national government has already given its approval. “I plead with local governments to work together to allow us to resume service. The current patchwork of regulations regarding transport routes has made it impossible to reopen.”
Beach reopening postponed
Ecuador’s national Emergency Operations Committee has delayed he reopening of the Pacific Ocean beaches until August 5 and said further delays are possible depending on the spread of Covid-19. Under an earlier directive, beaches were set to reopen next week.