Saying it’s time for Ecuador “to move forward,” President Guillermo Lasso announced Friday morning that restaurants, shopping malls, stores, movie theaters and other indoor public and private establishments can operate at 100 percent capacity effective today.
All sporting events, including the March 29 Ecuador-Argentina World Cup qualifying match in Guayaquil, can also be held at 100% capacity, the president announced.
“The use of masks and other biosafety protocols will be maintained but we expect to lift these restrctions as soon as conditions permit. From all indications, it appears that the pandemic is approaching the end,” Lasso said.
In a later Tweet, the president said that proof of vaccine checks will continue in public offices but are optional for private businesses, maintained at the discretion of management.
Accompanied by members of the national Emergency Operations Committee, Lasso praised the Committee’s and the Health Ministry’s work for improving health conditions. “This has been a lengthy and difficult period for all of us, and a sad time for those who have lost friends and family members, but we are finally seeing the end of the ordeal,” he said.
Appearing with Lasso, Health Minister Ximena Garzón said the occupancy of ICU hospital unit for Covid patients has fallen to nine percent, the lowest level since April 2020. “We are in much better condition than we were two years ago when our hospitals began to see the first coronavirus patients,” she said, adding that the country’s 85 percent vaccination rate and adherence to health rules has helped the country emerge from the pandemic.
She said the Health Ministry will continue to monitor cases of the Omicron BA.2 subvariant. “It is possible that we could see a slight increase in cases due to the new strain but this should be temporary. We expect the overall downward trend of Covid-19 cases to continue.”
She said the elimination of masking and social distancing protocols will come when the positivity rate of Covid-19 tests reaches five percent. “We are already down to only nine percent so we could meet this goal within a matter of weeks,” she said.
Entry requirements for travelers entering Ecuador by air have not changed, the Health Ministry said. Travelers are required to present proof of two vaccine doses received at least two weeks before arrival or the negative result of a PCR test taken no more than 72 hours prior to boarding a flight. In addition, travelers must present a completed Declaration of Traveler Health document upon arrival. The declaration is available from airlines or online at the Ministry of Health website.