Indigenous want cessation of oil production during Covid; Galapagos flights resume; Pacific beaches reopen; Russia to supply anti-viral med

Aug 5, 2020 | 9 comments

Several Amazon indigenous communities are petitioning the government to end oil production until the Covid-19 health emergency is over. Village councils in the Coca and Napo River basin claim that the government and companies involved in oil extraction have violated environmental controls during the health crisis, leading to oil spills in several locations.

A polluted stream near the Rio Coca pipeline rupture.

“The government has shut down other operations to protect the public but has ignored the health and well-being of residents of the Amazon,” the Judiciary Council of Puerto Francisco de Orellana said in a statement. “The break in the pipeline near the Coca River has polluted the soil and water in a large area, affecting the lives of thousands of indigenous people. This disaster could have been avoided had normal standards been observed.”

Ecuador’s energy ministry admits that thousands of barrels of oil spilled during the pipeline break in May but says it cannot begin cleanup operations until after Covid restrictions are lifted. Indigenous groups say that 27,000 people live in the area near the spill and that the government still has not supplied drinking water to some areas.

The Puerto Francisco de Orellana statement accused the government of putting “profits ahead of the health the the people.”

Galapagos flights resume
Commercial flights to the Galapagos Islands have resumed following a five-month hiatus due to the Covid-19 health emergency. The first flight, operated by Latam, arrived Monday in Baltra from Quito carrying 138 passengers. Under new rules issued by the Emergency Operations Committee, visitors to the islands are not required to undergo a quarantine but most show negative results of a recent Covid-19 test before boarding flights.

Latam plans two flights a week but says the number will be increase with demand. Avianca says it will resume service from Guayaquil beginning August 9.

Beaches reopen today
Following a review of local health protocols, the national Emergency Operations Committee has authorized the reopening of beaches in Esmeraldas, Manabí, Guayas and Santa Elena provinces on August 5. The COE also inspected resorts, hotels and hostals in the coastal provinces and approved the reopening of those that met its Covid-19 health standards. Despite the authorization, many communities have decided to open beaches gradually or delay the reopening until the end of the month.

Russia to provide anti-viral drug to Ecuador
Russia has reached an agreement with Ecuador and six other Latin American countries to supply the Covid-19 anti-viral drug Avifavir. A minimum of 150,000 doses will be provided to hospitals in Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Uruguay, Paraguay, Honduras and El Salvador beginning in August, the Russian Direct Investment Fund announced Friday. In a recent Russian test, Avifavir proved “highly effective” in a trial of 700 coronavirus patients, according to researchers.


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