The early curfews and restrictions on liquor sales imposed at the end of July will end Monday, the national Emergency Operations Committee decided on Tuesday. For Cuenca and other communities in yellow light health emergency status, the curfew returns to a 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. schedule. Restrictions on weekend liquor sales will also be lifted.
Interior Minisiter María Paula Romo said the month-long restrictions had accomplished their goal of slowing the spread of Covid-19 cases in Quito, Cuenca and several other cities. “Specifically, our intention was to reduce the number of illegal social gatherings that involved drinking and this has been accomplished “Now, it’s time to return to our original curfew hours dictated by traffic light emergency health protocols.”
In her Tuesday afternoon news conference, Romo also said that the government will not extend the state of emergency that ends September 12 and that curfews, controls on personal movement, including the operation of private vehicles, and the size of public gatherings, will be eliminated. She announced the launch of a nationwide campaign, “Yo me cuido” (I take care of myself) campaign to emphasize personal responsibility to control the pandemic.
Romo said that local governments are free to enforce their own controls, such as those for social distancing, mask-wearing and monitoring of traffic movement, so long as they do not violate constitutional guarantees of personal freedom. “Without the state of emergency, cantonal and provincial governments cannot enforce curfews or the right of individual movement,” she said.
Mayors in several cities expressed surprise that the state of emergency would not be extended. “I think it is too early to end it and I am shocked by the decision,” said Wilson Erazo, mayor of Santo Domingo. “The number of infections is still rising in my city and we need special authority to control it,” he said, adding that he will meet with his city council and health officials to decide what measures the canton can take on its own to maintain public health.
Paute mayor and president of the Association of Municipalities of Ecuador Raúl Delgado said that after September 12 it will be up to cantonal Emergency Operations Committees to establish their own health regulations according to local needs. He said the difficulty will come in enforcing restrictions that do no violate constitutional guarantees.
Tourism-related businesses and restaurants had lobbied the government to roll back the special early curfew and liquor sale restrictions ordered July 31. Under those rules, the nightly curfew was moved up to 9 p.m. from 11 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and to 7 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Restaurant owners say the restrictions are forcing them to lay off recently rehired employees. Romo acknowledged the hardship the restrictions and said the government is now shifting its focus to revitalizing the economy.
The national association of restaurant and bar owners applauded Tuesday’s announcement, saying its members looked forward to resuming full operations while maintaining social distancing and other health standards.
The coming weekend will be the last in which the early curfew and liquor sale restrictions will be enforced.