Government pays some debt, expects new IMF loan; New health minister worked at CDC; First Galapagos cases; Highway travel restricted
Ecuador Finance Minister Richard Martinez announced Monday that Ecuador made a $325 million payment on foreign debt and will take advantage of a 30-day grace period to defer additional payments. He added that he has been in contact with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which has agreed to provide a $500 million loan to Ecuador later this or next week.
On Monday, members of the National Assembly urged the government to defer all payments to creditors to provide additional funding for the coronavirus crisis but Martinez said that debt payments will not affect funds for the health emergency. “We are allocating additional funds for that effort but it is also important that we cover our financial obligations so we are able to return to the credit market for future needs,” he said.
New health minister worked with U.S. CDC
Ecuador’s new Minister of Health, Juan Carlos Zevallos, says he believes that Ecuador is well-prepared for the Covid-19 virus. “We started early to slow the spread of the disease although we face many challenges due to equipment and space shortages, which I believe we will overcome in the coming days,” he said.
A cardiologst trained at the University of Massachusetts, Zevallos worked as a researcher at the U.S. Centers of Disease Control in Atlanta and later as a professor a Florida Internaional University in Miami. He says he will rely on the international health contacts he established during his years in the U.S. and Italy. “We must pay close attention to what has happened in China and what is ongoing in Europe and adjust our protocols as new information arrives,” he said.
Zevallos replaces Catalina Andramuño, who resigned after complaining that the government was not providing sufficient funding to fight Covid-19.
Transit police monitor highway travel
Ecuador Transit Police have established highway roadblocks throughout the country to control traffic between communities. The roadblocks are being manned by National Transit Police, the armed forces and local transportation officers. No traffic will allowed except for the purpose of purchasing food, medicine and other essential household supplies, said Fabián Moscoso of the Cuenca transportation office. “Travel will not be allowed for other purposes, such as visitation or transporting passengers,” he said. Vehicles will also be checked to determine if they comply with the odd-even license plate rules. Violators will be fined $200 and have nine points deducted from their licenses.
On Saturday and Sunday, March 21 and 22, 130 drivers were fined for violating driving day rules or for being on the road for unauthorized purposes.
Galapagos Islands report first Covid-19 cases
The president of the Galapagos Governing Council, Norman Wray, said Monday night that four Covid-19 cases have been confirmed on Santa Cruz and San Cristóbal Islands. “We tried hard to keep the virus out of the islands but due to circumstances beyond our control this was not possible,” he said. “At this stage, three of the vicitms are suffering mild symptoms while one is hospitalized in critical condition.”
The Galapagos have imposed strict rules for visitors during the national heatlh emergency, requiring them to undergo a supervised 14-day quarantine before being allowed entry.