Ecuador shuts down international travel, sealing borders and ports; Updates: ‘Drastic’ Galapagos rules, insurance coverage, Quito ‘dry law’ sought

Mar 15, 2020 | 42 comments

Ecuador has banned all international flights from entering the country and closed its ports and border crossings. The last flights bringing foreign travelers to the country must arrive by Sunday at 11:59 p.m. Flights carrying Ecuadorian citizens and legal foreign residents will be allowed in until 11:59 p.m. on Monday.

Vice President Otto Sonnenholzner at his Saturday news conference. (El Comercio)

Land borders will be closed to foreigners although citizens and residents will be allowed to pass through the Huaquillas and Rumichaca crossings with Peru and Colombia.

The new restrictions were announced Saturday afternoon by Vice President Otto Sonnenholzner who said that the country had no other choice for protecting its citizens. “Our decision is based on the advice of the world’s best public health officials and epidemiologists and the World Health Organization and is intended to protect the well-being of our people.” He said other countries are instituting similar restrictions.

At his press conference, Sonnenholzner also ordered a reduction of the maximum size of public gatherings from 250 to 30. A day earlier, the interior minister had reduced crowd sizes from 1,000 to 250. Sonnenholzner said that gyms, weddings, concerts and indoor and outdoor performances are covered by the restriction.

Sonnenholzner said that Easter events and church gatherings are included in the crowd restriction. The Catholic Episcopal Conference said it agreed with the suspension of religious activities and Sunday masses in consideration of the health crisis.

He also ordered all public buses, muncipal and interprovincial, to be disinfected every three hours and banned visits by the public to geriatric centers, hospitals and prisons.

Following the vice president’s press conference, the Ministry of Tourism said that outgoing flights would be allowed. However, officials at the Quito and Guayaquil airports said that airlines would not fly out if they were not allowed to fly into the country. Several airlines, including American, announced Sunday morning that their last flights out of Ecuador would be on Monday, March 16.

Virus updates

Quito mayor wants to ban sale of alcoholic beverages
Quito Mayor Jorge Yunda is asking Interior Minister María Paula Romo for permission to impose a ban on the sale of alcoholic drinks in Quito. Yunda claims that drinking encourages careless behavior and that a “dry law” should be imposed until the threat of the coronavirus subsides.

Spanish flight detained on Quito tarmac over virus concerns
An jet arriving from Spain has been detained on the ground at Quito’s Mariscal Sucre Airport due to a passenger exhibiting Covid 19 symptoms. Officials did not name the airline or flight number of the aircraft and said Saturday night that passengers would be allowed to deplane once health officials made appropriate screening and quarantining plans.

Ecuadorian companies offer Covid-19 coverage
Despite an announcement by the Ecuadorian Federation of Insurance Companies that health insurance carriers are not legally obligated, several companies say they will provide coverage for the coronavirus, including Blue Box, Salud Latina and Humana. Insurance federation President Patricio Salas says he applauds companies who are “voluntarily stepping up to the challenge,” but cautions that coverage could be suspended in the case of a widespread outbreak.

Galapagos requires 14-day quarantine for all visitors
All Ecuadorian citizens and legal residents, in addition to foreigners, must verify they have self-quarantined for 14 days prior to boarding flights to visit the Galapagos Islands. The Galapagos’ Governing Council issued the new requirement in emergency session Satruday afternoon. “The health system in the islands does not have the intensive care tools to treat acute cases,” said Norman Wray, president of the council. “We have no choice but to impose drastic meassures to keep the virus out of the Galapagos.” The rule takes effect Sunday, March 15.

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