Although it has been largely responsible for controlling the Covid-19 contagion in the country, Ecuadorians vaccinated with Chinese-made Sinovac are unable to travel to most European countries. Only Spain, the Netherlands and Austria allow entry to those inoculated with Sinovac.
It is unclear if the U.S. will recognize Sinovac when it begins requiring vaccinations for international travelers in November since it has not been approved by the national drug council.
“The irony is that Sinovac has proven very effective and is one of the reasons why Ecuador is a world leader in reducing Covid infections,” says Diego Alvarez, Quito infectious disease expert. “All the data show that Sinovac is one of the best vaccines available but it has not been approved in most countries in Europe and North America. It is my hope that, as the world recovers from Covid, countries will come together to recognize the best vaccines no matter where they are made or used.”
Most European countries and the U.S. have only approved use of AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines and do not allow international travelers who have received other vaccines to enter.
According the Ministry of Health, more than six million Ecuadorians are fully vaccinated with Sinovac. By the end of the year, another 1.5 to two million more will received the vaccine, the ministry says.
Cuenca officials criticize Cajas highway progress
National Transportation Minister Marcelo Cabrera defended the government’s efforts to repair the Cajas highway Wednesday following criticism by Cuenca Mayor Pedro Palacios and business leaders. “We are progressing as quickly as possible with our studies and hope to begin work very soon on the solution,” he said. “This is a massive project, involving an unstable mountain and it cannot be accomplished in a day.”
Palacios said Wednesday that the project, at kilometer 49 of the highway that connects Cuenca and Guayaquil, has not received the “emergency” designation that would expedite the work. Cabrera, a former Cuenca mayor defeated by Palacios, responded that the project is, in fact, considered an emergency whether it carries “the official label or not.”
Cuenca business leaders are also criticizing the project, saying that transportation disruptions between Cuenca, Guayaquil and other coastal destinations is hurting business. “The entire production sector of Cuenca is feeling the pain of delays and uncertainty,” says Fabian Andrade, president of the Cuenca Chamber of Commerce.
Following a series of landslides, the highway has been closed intermittently since late August and is currently open only to daytime travel. Transportation experts say that the mountainside adjacent the highway must be stabilized with concrete and metal mesh, a process that could take as long as nine months once engineering and environmental studies are completed.
State of emergency arrests
During the first two days of the state of emergency to combat drug crime, the National Police and army personnel have made 15 arrests, impounded nine motor vehicles and confiscated an undisclosed amount of illegal drugs. Police say they are setting up highway check points throughout the country but are concentrating efforts in Guayas, El Oro, Los Rios and Manabi Provinces.
Exports scanned for drugs
Under a presidential decree issued Tuesday, all commercial shipments leaving the country by air and sea must undergo anti-drug scanning. According to President Guillermo Lasso, drug cartels are using shipping containers and air pallets to transport drugs from ports in Guayaquil, Machala and Manta and airports in Quito and Guayaquil.
Customs personnel currently conduct spot checks of out-going shipments using drug-scanning systems. Under the new decree, the customs office must develop a plan to scan all shipments within 60 days and have 12 months to make it operational. Officials say they will purchase additional scanners and add personnel to comply with the presidential order.