Claiming that the risks of the Covid-19 virus are declining, the National Emergency Operations Committee (COE) relaxed many of the health emergency restrictions that have been in place since mid-March. “We have endured 77 days of isolation and extreme restrictions on our lives and because of the progress we have made we feel comfortable accelerating our return to normalcy,” said Interior Minister Maria Paula Romo. “We have adjusted the protocols of our traffic light system to reflect these changes which will go into effect June 1.”
She said that the relaxed rules apply to red, yellow and green light designations in all 221 of the country’s cantons and can be changed only with the approval of the national COE. “The national government is assuming authority over local jurisdictions based on the reduction of infections and other data that we have collected.”
She added that Quito has been given permission to move to a “modified” yellow light status next week due to concerns of increasing Covid infections in some neighborhoods.
For Cuenca, which is under yellow light protocols, the following restrictions now apply:
- Private vehicles can operate from Monday to Saturday with license plates ending in odd numbers circulating on Monday, Wednesday and Friday while those with even numbers can circulate on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
- No private vehicles can circulate on Sunday.
- Municipal buses can operate at 50% capacity without other restrictions.
- Taxis can operate under the same odd-even daily circulation rules as private vehicles.
- Inter-parish and inter-cantonal buses are allowed to operate at 50% capacity.
- Restaurants can reopen with 30% capacity.
- Companies can resume normal work routines, respecting biosecurity measures.
- Telecommuting is still encouraged.
- Curfew continues from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily.
Payment dispute keeps city buses off the street
Cuenca’s municipal bus service has not resumed as the city refuses to compensate bus owners for losses due to the Covid-19 health emergency. Bus owners say they cannot afford to operate at 30 percent capacity and demand that the city compensate them for losses. Mayor Pedro Palacios says the health crisis is not the result of action by the municipality and that all sectors have suffered from it. “I understand the situation but we are not in a position to subsidize private businesses even if we had excess resources, which we do not.” Talks are continuing and the mayor said he hopes the government’s Wednesday decision to allow 50 percent ridership will settle the dispute.
National and International air service resumes June 1
Interior Minister María Paula reconfirmed on Monday that national and international airline flights will resume Monday, June 1. She said that flights will be restricted to 30 percent seating capacity and that Covid-19 testing requirements will apply to international air arrivals. Following an agreement with Guayaquil Mayor Cynthia Viteri, Romo said the national Emergency Operations Committee has agreed to delay the start of air service at the Guayaquil airport until June 15.
It is unclear which airlines will be available for service June 1 and flight schedules remain undetermined. Romo said that information would become available before Monday.
Some Cuenca restaurants reopen
At least 32 restaurants have been approved to reopen for sit-down service, the Cuenca tourism office reported on Wednesday. Restaurants will be allowed to operate at 30 percent capacity with table spacing subject to social distancing standards. The tourism office said it expects hundreds of restaurants to reopen by the second week in June.
Gyms and fitness centers prepare reopening plans
Organizations that represent Ecuador’s gyms and fitness centers say they are developing a proposal to present to the national Emergency Operations Committee next week. According to officials of the Ecuador Gymnasium Association, the plan incorporates rules adopted in the U.S., Spain and China, which mandate a variety of social distancing, work-out time limits, gym capacity and disinfecting protocols. The rules include a ban on those over 60 but the association says it hopes to find a “work-around” to allow access to seniors.
Inter-parish buses resume operation
The Cuenca COE has cleared 96 inter-parish buses to begin operation. The buses will operate at 50 percent capacity under new national rules released on Wednesday.