President Guillermo Lasso imposed new health restrictions Monday night as a precaution against the new Covid-19 Omicron variant. Omicron was first identified in South Africa two weeks ago but health experts say it has probably been circulating since early October. The new rules take effect Wednesday, December 1.
Among measures announced by the president are a requirement that travelers arriving in the country show both proof of vaccination as well as a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of boarding flights. In addition, the capacity for public events will be reduced to 50 percent from the current 75 percent and those entering any public office or institution will be required to present vaccination records.
Earlier Monday, Tourism Minister Niels Olsen said Ecuador would not stop international flights, as several other countries have announced. “We will prohibit entry from the African countries where there is a high prevalence of Omicron but passengers from other destinations will be welcome if they show proper documentation.” The African countries included in the entry prohibition include South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Eswatini and Malawi.
In a brief address to the nation, Lasso urged private businesses such as restaurants, shopping malls, markets, grocery stores, bars and night clubs to require vaccine cards for entry. “Because of our high rate of vaccination this should not be an inconvenience to the public,” he said in Tweet following his earlier comments. “For those still unvaccinated, it will encourage them to get their shots.”
Lasso said long-distance public buses can continue to operate at 100 percent capacity if all passengers wear masks. In addition, he said that the border opening with Colombia will continue but in “in phases” until the threat from Omicron is known.
Quoting U.S. President Joe Biden, Lasso said Omicron is “cause for concern but not panic.” He acknowledged that many countries are taking “extreme actions” to control the spread of Omicron but said Ecuador will take a “middle road.” “We are doing very well in our fight against the virus and I expect that to continue,” he Tweeted.