Cuenca Mayor Pedro Palacios says it is time for city residents to assume the responsibility for combating the Covid-19 pandemic. “The goal remains the same but the burden shifts to individuals and it is time to think about what we should and should not do to protect ourselves, not out of fear of fines and sanctions, but for fear of the consequences for our loved ones.”
In comments Friday night following the Cuenca Emergency Operations Committee’s decision to maintain yellow light health restrictions, Palacios acknowledged that the government’s decision not to extend the national health emergency presents a challenge for the city. “We will enact ordinances to protect our citizens but they will not be as strict as those we now have. There will be no curfew and no restrictions on personal movement and we can expect that there will be more face-to-face interaction.”
The mayor said he respects the government’s decision but believes that it will, at least temporarily, lead to an increase in Covid cases. “The Constitutional Court is correctly concerned about controls on personal freedom but my focus is on the health of Cuencanos when we are still in the middle of a deadly pandemic,” he said.
In media interviews Thursday and Friday, local doctors and health officials continued their criticism of the government’s decision, most of them claiming it is too early to roll back restrictions. “Why are we declaring victory when the battle is not yet won?” asked infectious disease physician Freddy Ortiz on Teleamazonas. “In Cuenca, we remain at full ICU capacity and continue to import equipment to deal with new cases.”
In a counter argument in a Friday radio interview, a former medical school professor said that the fear of Covid is greater than the disease itself. “Based on the data in Cuenca and Azuay Province, I agree it is time to remove most of the restrictions,” said Jorge Ramos, a consultant to the Pan American Health Organization. “They have done great damage to the community, not only here but in other parts of the world too.”
Ramos says that Cuenca has one of the lowest Covid fatality rates in Latin America and that the rate is dropping. “The PAHO issued a list this week that shows Cuenca has one of the lowest fatality rate for cities of 500,000 or more population in South America.”