President Lenín Moreno said Sunday that he is “greatly disappointed” that the Constitutional Court ended the national state of emergency he declared on December 20. The court ruled on Saturday that the declaration was unconstitutional and violated the civil rights of citizens.
“We must, however, abide by the ruling and look for other measures to control the Covid-19 pandemic that is attacking the health of our country,” Moreno said. “Based on information from our public health professionals, we will see an increase in coronavirus cases in January and beyond, which will put new burdens on hospitals and healthcare workers.”
On Sunday morning, the National Police command said it would no longer enforce a nighttime curfew, restrictions on driving and the sale of alcohol and other controls of the state of emergency. Local law enforcement agencies throughout the country also announced an end to the emergency enforcement efforts.
Moreno said responsibility for control of the health emergency now shifts to local governments and to individuals. “We are contacting the 211 cantonal Emergency Operations Committees and asking that they adopt new local rules to protect the health of communities,” he said, adding that priority should be placed on restricting public gatherings and enforcing social distancing rules. “I understand that there is a high level of fatigue in maintaining health protocols but we have no alternative until we are able to vaccinate a large percentage of the population.”
In a statement Sunday night, the National COE urged local COEs in larger cities to consider imposing their own driving restrictions, such as the one that has been in effect in Quito since 2013. “It is not a violation of the court ruling for municipalities to install motor vehicle restrictions based on traffic conditions,” it said.
In his statement, Moreno said he is concerned about the variants of the Covid-19 virus identified recently in Great Britain and South Africa, noting that they may be as much as 50 percent more contagious than other versions of the virus. “Our health ministry believes that the variants are spreading around the world and may already be in Ecuador.”
In its ruling, the Constitutional Court said that current conditions did not warrant the restriction on civil liberties imposed under the state of emergency. It indicated that its position could change if the health threat increases. Legal experts said the court’s decision was prompted by the lack of statistical data indicating deteriorating pandemic conditions.