Moreno restricts movement, closes restaurants and bars, delays tax payments and suspends some import tariffs; Other coronavirus updates
Ecuador is in lockdown mode following the addition of new rules and restrictions issued Sunday night to combat the coronavirus.
In a televised address, President Lenín Moreno ordered strict controls on the movement of people and vehicles in the country as well as the closure of restaurants, cafes and bars. “We face the biggest health emergency in Ecuador’s history and must act decisively while the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus is in the early stages of transmissions,” Moreno said. “We have observed the disastrous impact on countries that have responded too late and too meekly.”
The mobility rules restrict residents’ movement outside their homes only to the purchase of food, basic household and personal necessities and pharmaceutical products; to go to places of employment and health centers; and to care for the elderly and others with disabilities and serious illnesses. Additionally, travel will be allowed for the purchase of telecommunications equipment and for financial services.
Although local ordinances had already closed bars and nightclubs in some cities, Moreno expanded the closure to restaurants nationwide but said they would be allowed to continue food preparation services for take-out. All businesses not engaged in the sale of essential products and services were ordered closed.
Moreno “guaranteed” that government employees would not lose their jobs and said their services were needed now more than ever. “The police and armed forces will be required to maintain compliance and order and most other government services will be maintained,” he said.
In other action, the president said tariffs on essential imported products, such as medical supplies, will be lifted and that personal and business tax payments to the government will be delayed for six months. He also ordered the telecommuncations company CNT to double internet speeds to all customers due to the fact that more Ecuadorians will be working from home.
The new measures take effect at 6 a.m. Tuesday, March 17.
Airlines announce suspension of flights
As of Sunday night, most international air carriers had announed that they are ending service to Ecuador as of Monday 16 until further notice. Although the government said outgoing international flights are allowed, the airlines said they are unable to fly empty planes to Ecuador for the purpose of maintaining outbound service. On Saturday, Vice President Otto Sonnenholzner announced a ban on all incoming international flights as of Monday.
Number of confirmed cases reaches 37
As of Sunday night, there were 37 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 virus in Ecuador. Two deaths have been reported. A total of 323 people suspected of having the disease are in mandatory quarantine pending test results. Guayas Province has the highest number of confirmed cases with 19, followed by Los Ríos with 10, Pichincha with 6, Sucumbíos with one and Azuay with one. Several health experts say that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of unreported cases in the country.
Elderly are prohibited from entering Cuenca mercados
The municipal government has ordered the closure of all businesses in city markets not engaged in the sale of food products. In addition, it says that the elderly and children will not be allowed to enter markets as a safety precaution. City markets administrator Edgar Paredes said that ongoing sanitation measures are being conducted in all eight markets and that vendors will be required to wear hats and gloves.
Police make arrests, shut down bars and parties
Police throughout Ecuador closed dozens of bars, nightclubs and private parities over the weekend, including in Cuenca. Several arrests were reported. Police raided an underground “Coronavirus Party” in Machala Saturday night and arrested the property owner. There were 200 people crowded into three rooms in a house near the city center. Entry fee to the party was $3 but $2 for those who wore a mask.
Colombia and Argentina go into lockdown
The governments of Colombia and Argentina have imposed mobility restrictions similar to Ecuador’s, banning international flights, closing bars and restaurants and restricting personal movement except for the purpose of making essential purchases.
Local lab offers Covid-19 tests
The INTERLAB corporation of Guayaquil and Cuenca is offering Covid-19 tests for $200 and will begin taking samples Monday afternoon at 2. If the result is negative it will be delivered in 24 hours; if it is positive it will be delivered in 48 hours. INTERLAB says it is currently unable to offer testing to low-income patients. The Social Security (IESS) health program offers free tests to its members through primary physicians. INTERLAB is located at Calles Honorato Loyola and Federico Proano in Cuenca.