The National Emergency Operations Committee (COE) voted Monday to allow 100 percent capacity on all intra- and interprovincial transportation buses in the country. The move clears the way for municipalities to eliminate limits which currently stand at 75 percent.
“We are able to remove the capacity limit because of the decline in coronavirus cases and the installation of upgraded ventilation systems in the buses,” said Juan Zapata, COE president. “It is also a reflection of the fact that bus companies and passengers have done a good job in following health protocols in recent months — and, of course, Ecuador’s successful vaccination program.”
In its announcement, the COE said that masks will still be required for all passengers and that “all other reasonable” safety measures should be employed. “Conditions are improving but the virus continues to circulate and we must maintain our public health precautions until the pandemic ends,” the statement said.
Bus companies said the move is the first step in their return to full service and sustainability. “Ridership is far below 2019 levels and the increase in the diesel fuel price continues to cause great harm to the entire transport sector,” said Gustavo Miller, spokesman for long-distance carriers. “With capacity restrictions removed and the government’s plan to provide fuel price relief, we will finally be able to begin our long journey back to fiscal health.”
He added that even with the elimination of capacity limits, some former passengers will be slow to return. “Many people are still scared of Covid and they will come back slowly.”
Based on previous COE guidance, cities with public transportation services have maintained 50 and 75 percent capacity limits since the beginning of 2021. An official with the Cuenca mayor’s office said he expects capacity limits to be eliminated for city buses and the tram at the next meeting of the local COE.