Mayor, Cuenca city councilmen angered by national decision to ease Covid-19 restrictions
Mayor Pedro Palacio and three city councilmen are questioning the national government’s decision to ease health emergency restrictions. For cities like Cuenca, which are under yellow light rules, the new guidelines push back the nightly curfew, allow theaters to reopen and increase the size of public gatherings.
“These decisions should be made on a local level based on local conditions,” Palacios said. “The local Emergency Operations Committee (COE) meets once a week and considers a variety of information before we make a decision for the next week and it was my understanding that the purpose of this process was to allow individual communities to decide what is best for them. It doesn’t make sense to me that decisions are being made in Quito and applied to the entire country without consideration of local circumstances.”
Palacios said he is worried about a rise in new Covid-19 cases in the city and the fact that the intensive care units at Cuenca’s two public hospitals are near full capacity. He pointed out that the two hospitals serve patients from three provinces in addition to Cuenca. “Every week, we have to consider virus cases in El Oro, Cañar and Morona Santiago [provinces] to assess our health care capabilities.”
Palacios dismissed a Wednesday claim by Interior Minister Paula Maria Romo that, nationally, the pandemic was being successfully managed and that the country has the hospital capacity to handle critical cases. “I’m not sure this is true but it’s cetainly not the case in Cuenca and Quito,” he said.
Municipal councilmen Omar Ledesma, Diego Morales and Andrés Ugalde sent an open letter to the National COE on Tuesday complaining that Cuenca was not consulted before the relaxed rules were announced. “We were already in a precarious situation with the coronavirus and to have it mandated that our curfew is extended and that larger groups are allowed to gather puts new strain on the community,” Morales said in a radio interview. “We also don’t understand the wisdom of opening theaters and cinemas, even at reduced capacity. If anything, it is time to be tightening restrictions, not reducing them.”
Azuay Province Prefect Yaku Pérez joined Palacios and the councilmen in criticizing relaxed restrictions. “I hope I am wrong, but I believe the government’s move will lead to additional loss of life.”
Although he didn’t criticize the new rules, Ministry of Health regional health director Julio Molina admitted they would make it more difficult to police violators. “We already have too many young people on the streets and in the parks playing football and volleyball and hanging out without masks and this must be controlled to stop the spread of the virus.”