Driving restrictions lifted nationwide for the holiday weekend but Cuenca will enforce local rules

Oct 9, 2020

Ecuadorians will be able to travel by private vehicle without restriction during the three-day Guayaquil independence holiday weekend. Although many of the country’s 221 municipalities have already lifted restrictions, some have not, making cross-country travel difficult. “All local governments have agreed to allow free vehicular circulation from Friday through Sunday so Ecuadorians can enjoy the holiday,” ECU-911 director Juan Zapata said Thursday.

Transit police expect the country’s highways to be crowded this weekend.

In Cuenca, the nighttime ban on liquor sales and restrictions on large public gatherings remain in place, according to the local Emergency Operations Committee. The COE also said there would be increased police and Citizen Guard patrols of public areas and restaurants to insure that social distancing measures are being maintained. The sale of liquor is allowed in restaurants and cafes that serve food until midnight.

On Wednesday, Cuenca Vice Mayor Pablo Burbano said the COE had decided to keep bars and nightclubs closed due to the Covid-19 health threat. Earlier in the week, Burbano said that the ban was being reviewed and reopenings would be considered. “After consultation with health experts we determined that bars will not be allowed to reopen. Although cases of the coronavirus continue to decline in Cuenca, we feel it is too early to allow the operation of businesses selling liquor by the drink,” he said.

The Cuenca Hotel Association said Thursday it expects its best weekend since the health emergency went into effect in mid-March. “The hotels that remain open expect 25 to 30 percent occupancy this weekend which is relatively good news for our members,” a spokeswoman for the association said. “Last year, we had 90 percent occupancy for the holiday so we have a long way to go to return the sector to good health.”

Local restaurants also expect their largest crowds since March. “We look forward to a good weekend but the social distancing rules will restrict how many customers we can serve,” says Juan Pedro Gonzales, manager of Gran Cafe in Challuabamba. “We continue to be hurt by the fear of the Covid virus, since many of our customers are not going out to eat.”

Hotel owners on the coast say they expect occupancy rates of 50 percent or higher and some say they will at full capacity. To attract tourists, many hotels are advertising deep discounts with many nightly rates ranging from $15 to $35 in Manabi and Esmeraldas Provinces.

Almost all of the country’s beaches will be open for the holiday, some of them only reopening to the public last week.

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