Five dead in Cuenca van accident; Three more UK Covid cases identified; Mayor says Cuenca not ready for ‘red light’; New int’l travel rules begin today

Jan 13, 2021 | 30 comments

Five people were killed and another four were injured Tuesday night in an accident near Latacunga involving a Cuenca-based van. Police report that the passenger van collided head-on with a dump truck and that the truck driver had been drinking. Following the initial collision, a second vehicle was also hit. The van, operated by Pazhuca Tours, left the Pazhuca terminal on Av. Remigio Crespo at 2 p.m. bound for Quito. The names of the dead and injured have not been released pending notification of families.

A health worker checks the Covid test results of travelers at the Guayaquil airport.

Three more cases of UK Covid variant verified
The Ministry of Health says it identified three more cases of the UK Covid-19 variant on Tuesday, bringing the total to four. The ministry said the new cases are relatives of the 50-year-old Los Rios Province man who flew into the Guayaquil airport from London via Madrid on December 12. The man, who is currently hospitalized, entered the country with a negative PCR Covid test but began to show virus symptoms on January 2.

The ministry reports that nine other people, all family and friends of the man, are under surveillance for the variant virus.

According to Health Minister Juan Carlos Zevallos, the UK variant is no more dangerous on a case-by-case basis than previous Covid strains but is much more contagious. “The fatality rate is the same but the variant is as much as 70 percent more contagious,” he said. “Based on previous experience, we believe there are more cases of the variant in the country than those identified in Los Rios and we must be prepared for its spread.”

Zevallos said the ministry is also on the look-out for cases of a South African variant, which is also more contagious. So far, none have been found.

Mayor says Cuenca not ready for ‘red light’ restrictions
Mayor Pedro Palacios said Tuesday that the Covid-19 situation in Cuenca does not yet warrant a return to red light health restrictions. He said the local Emergency Operations Committee is monitoring new cases and hospitalizations and will make a change from yellow light status if necessary. According to Palacios, the Social Security and public hospital are above 90 percent capacity in their critical care units while private hospitals are at 60 percent.

At least two of Ecuador’s 221 municipalities announced Tuesday that they were moving to red light status.

Palacios said that without a national state of emergency declaration, not all of the previous restrictions can be implemented under the red light protocol. The emergency declaration ordered by President Lenin Moreno in December was ruled unconstitutional by Ecuador’s Constitutional Court on January 2.

New international travel rules begin today
Beginning Wednesday, January 13, all arriving international air passengers must present a negative RT-PCR Covid-19 test on arrival at the airports in Quito and Guayaquil. Previously, passengers were given the option of presenting the test result or undergoing a quarantine without one. The negative test result must be no older than 10 days.

In addition to the test requirement, the national Emergency Operations Committee (COE) is alerting incoming passengers that they may be subject to random testing on arrival. Those who test positive will be subject to a 10-day quarantine.

The COE says international air carriers flying to Ecuador will be responsible for checking passenger test results before departure and will be subject to fines of $5,000 to $10,000 if they do not.

Passengers under 14 years of age are exempt from the testing requirement.