Medical groups and doctors are calling President Guillermo Lasso’s decision to reduce the value added tax for the Carnival holiday “irresponsible” and “an act of public endangerment.” According to several doctors, the tax break will encourage the gathering of larger crowds and could cause a surge in Covid-19 infections.
Some doctors are also attacking his recommendation to the national Emergency Operations Committee to allow 50 percent attendance at Thursday’s World Cup qualifying match between Ecuador and Brazil in Quito.
On Tuesday morning, Lasso announced that the VAT will be reduced from 12 percent to 8 percent during the four days of Carnival. “I believe by that time, Ecuadorians will be ready to celebrate and I want to give them a break on their holiday purchases,” he said. “I am confident that we are on the road to recovery regarding the pandemic and now is the time to anticipate a brighter future.”
The 2022 Carnival holiday is February 26 to March 1.
Lasso said he is taking advantage of the Law on Economic Development and Fiscal Sustainability that grants the president authority to reduce the VAT by four percent for up to 12 days year for holidays and tourist events. “This year’s Carnival is an excellent time to offer this reduction and reward the Ecuadorian people for helping control the pandemic,” he said. “Let’s focus on our return to good health and leave the painful past behind.”
The president’s action drew an angry response from Jorge Galarza, board member of the Pichincha College of Physicians. “Once again, the government is making a hasty decision that threatens the health of Ecuadorians,” he said. “We have no idea what the pandemic situation will be in two months and it is extremely careless to announce plans that will lead to larger gatherings. We must continue to err on the side of caution until we are certain that the virus is in retreat.”
On Tuesday afternoon, other doctors criticized Lasso for asking the COE to review its decision to bar spectators at the Ecuador v. Brazil football game. COE President Juan Zapata said the committee would consider the president’s request to allow 50 percent attendance.
“I think it is unfair that Ecuador is the only country in South America to keep fans away from the qualifiers,” Lasso said. “Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay have authorized 100% attendance while Colombia and Peru are allowing reduced numbers. Ecuador is doing better than all of these countries in terms of the pandemic.”