Latacunga schools remain open despite Cotopaxi volcano threat; Flu and Covid-19 cases rise; Increased ridership, advertising reduce tram subsidy

Dec 5, 2022 | 9 comments

The Education Ministry announced Sunday that public schools in Latacunga would be open on Monday despite increasing activity at the Cotopaxi volcano. Latacunga is located 16 kilometers from the volcano and has experienced frequent episodes of moderate ashfall in recent weeks.

“We are in continuous contact with the geologists at the Geophysical Institute and have been assured that there is no immediate danger of a large eruption,” the Ministry said in a statement Sunday. “If conditions change, we will make changes to the school schedule as necessary.”

In its Sunday bulletin, the Geophysical Institute reported that activity at Cotopaxi did not pose an immediate threat to areas close to the volcano but advised that residents wear face masks to protect against ash. It also said that the heightened levels of sulfur in the air do not pose a health threat.

Despite increased activity, schools will remain open in Latacunga, 16 kilometers from the Cotopaxi volcano.

“The Cotopaxi volcano continues to emit clouds of gas and ash as it has for the past few weeks and there has been a slight increase in general activity within the last 48 hours,” the Institute said. “We have recorded an increased number of earthquakes at the volcano, 186 since Friday, but this does indicate an eruption in imminent.”

The statement added: “We remain far below the level of activity of the 2015 eruptive period and will alert the public if this changes.”

In a radio interview Friday, former Geophysical Institute geologist Jorge Pacheco warned that Cotopaxi poses a “unique threat” to Latacunga. “To be very honest, the city is in grave danger if an eruption occurs,” he said. “The city was built on lava flows from eruptions over the past 400 years and sits in a valley where future flows will happen. This is well-known to the government but it unfortunately has allowed development in high risk areas.”

Cases of flu and Covid-19 are on the rise
Ecuador’s Ministry of Public Health said Sunday it is concerned by the rapid increase in respiratory infections and reports that hospitals are experiencing a surge of admissions, particularly in Guayas and Pichincha Provinces. “Cases of seasonal influenza are increasing in several areas of the country as are cases of the Covid-19 virus,” the Ministry said.

“Influenza is responsible for the majority of hospital admissions during the past week,” the Ministry added in a statement. “Despite more positive Covid-19 tests, we are not experiencing an increase of hospitalizations from Sars-CoV-2. All the data suggests decreasing severity for the virus.”

The Ministry advises persons with compromised health conditions to wear masks.

Increasing ridership and advertising revenue reduce tram subsidy
Director of Cuenca’s Tranvia, Jorge Moscoso, reported Friday that the subsidy needed for operation of the system continues to decline. “The subsidy required in 2023 will be 50% of the level when operations began in September 2020,” he said. “Increased ridership and revenue from advertising posted on rolling stock will continue to reduce the subsidy.”

In 2020 and 2021, the city’s contribution to the tram was about $7 million, Moscoso said. “That figure will drop to less than $4 million in 2023 and when the system is integrated with buses it may require no additional financial support.”