The National Emergency Operations Committee (COE) is asking municipal governments to intensify crowd control efforts during the New Year’s holiday. “The National Police were effective in their efforts over the Christmas holidays but we need help at the municipal level to control gatherings on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day,” said Juan Zapata, director of the ECU-911 service and member of the COE. “The police cannot control the situation by themselves.”
In addition to crowd control, the COE says it needs local governments to help maintain nighttime curfews and the holiday prohibition on alcohol sales.
Although Zapata said results were positive at Christmas, the COE continues to be concerned about an increase of Covid-19 cases as a result of holiday activities and the new, more contagious variant of the virus that is spreading around the world. “We have no doubt the new strain will arrive in Ecuador and we must be prepared to handle it,” he said.
According to Zapata, the number of unlawful crowds dispersed by police was lower than expected from December 22 to December 25. “We anticipated 30 to 40 percent more crowd dispersals,” he said. He added that the cities with the most illegal gatherings were Quito, 907; Guayaquil, 397; Babahoyo, 305; and Cuenca, 258.
Health Minister Juan Carlos Zevallos echoed Zapata’s concerns but said overall pandemic conditions are encouraging. “As we anticipate cases of the new virus variant, we must do all we can to keep the number of current cases manageable. He said the occupancy of ICU beds in the country’s hospitals has remained at 70 percent to 80 percent in recent weeks, although he said the situation in Quito is “worrisome,” where 92 percent of critical care beds are occupied. “We are in good condition in terms of ICU availability in Guayaquil and Cuenca, at about 60 percent occupancy.”
Zevallos also said that the country is maintaining its downward trend of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths from a peak in July and August. “At the high point, we had almost 9,000 new cases a week,” he said. “Two weeks ago we had 2,700 and last week we had 700.”
President Lenin Moreno ordered a 30-day state of emergency on December 21 although some restrictions will end January 3.