President Guillermo Lasso declared a state of emergency in Guayaquil and El Oro Province Wednesday morning in an effort to contain the spread of the delta variant of the Covid-19 virus. The action is based on the recommendation by the national Emergency Operations Committee (COE).
Lasso said he regretted limiting human mobility and some business functions but said the action was necessary to limit the impact of the Covid variant. The emergency restrictions go into effect at 8 p.m. Wednesday night and continue until midnight July 28.
The order follows the announcement Tuesday that 10 cases of the delta Covid-19 variant had been identified in Ecuador, with five of those cases resulting in deaths. According to the Ministry of Health, eight of the cases are in El Oro Province while two are in the city of Guayaquil.
In Guayaquil, emergency measures include a 50 percent capacity limit for enclosed areas, such as restaurants, stores and public offices, and a 75 percent capacity in open-air public and commercial spaces. Public transport, which has been operating at 75 percent capacity must reduce to 50 percent capacity. No restrictions were placed on vehicle circulation.
The emergency restrictions are more stringent in El Oro Province, where the health ministry believes more cases will be identified. Indoor public and commercial spaces must limit capacity to 25% and all face-to-face public and commercial operations are suspended except in cases of essential services. A weekday curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. will be enforced as will a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. weekend curfew. In addition, all interprovincial bus service into and out of El Oro is suspended.
In a Wednesday morning update, the health ministry reported 36 people who were in close contact with delta patients are under quarantine in El Oro and Guayaquil. The ministry said it could take as long as two weeks to determine if there are additional delta infections due to testing protocols.
Guayaquil Mayor Cynthia Viteri welcomed the emergency restrictions, saying they are necessary to control the pandemic in her city. In an afternoon press conference, she announced the opening of three more vaccination centers, saying the emergence of the delta variant will mean a large increase in the number of residents seeking vaccinations.
She also announced her intent to require vaccination cards for residents who want to enter restaurants, shopping malls and supermrkets. “The vaccination card will be your entry pass for participating in the life of city, for dining, shopping and using public transportation, among other things. We hope to have the card system in place by October.”