New Cuenca Covid cases remain low; Tram ridership continues to increase; 2021 city budget proposes spending more for bike paths, sidewalks and parks
The district office of the Ministry of Health reports that new cases of Covid-19 remain low and that the feared surge due to the Cuenca holidays has not developed. There was a slight increase in cases in the week ending on Friday from the previous week, 227 compared to 209.
“The situation remains encouraging and manageable in Cuenca,” the ministry said in a statement. “We are well off our high numbers of early September when new cases approached 900 a week. The recent numbers are even better than they appear, since the number of tests administered has risen by about 50 percent over the past three months.”
The ministry also reported that the occupancy of critical care hospital beds for all cases remains 50 to 60 percent, with about half of those being for the coronavirus.
Proposed Cuenca budget shows small increase
The Cuenca municipal council Financial Planning Commission is proposing a budget of $237 million, up slightly from $215 million for 2020. “Although we are changing some priorities from the current expenditures, we are not expecting significant increases of revenue due to the impact of the pandemic,” says Fabián Ledesema, chair of the finance committee. “Last year was very difficult financially for the city because of the decrease in tax collections and we expect only minor improvements for 2021.”
The new budget continues the process of reducing city personnel, most of it by attrition but some by position termination, Lesdema says. “The demands of staff are one of the biggest expenses and we must continue to eliminate positions.”
Among priorities of the new budget are allocations for two new markets, the addition of bicycle paths and sidewalks and three pedestrian overpasses. More money is also earmarked for city street and sidewalk repair and maintenance of city parks.
Lesdema says the municipal government continues its effort to collect money from the national government. “This is money they owe us that has been delayed by the health emergency. They tell us it is on the way but the delay in receipt has placed a burden on the budget this year.”
Tram ridership continues to increase
The management of Cuenca’s Tranvia says that it is pleased with ridership, which it says has increased by almost 400 percent since the commercial service began September 22. “The trend is what we anticipated when we advised the critics to be patient,” says Carolina Ormaza, tram director. “We have overcome early problems with the electronic cards and the single ticket purchases by placing agents at the platforms to instruct passengers how to use the machines.”
She added: “When service for pay began, we had less than 6,000 passengers a day and we received complaints about low ridership. Now, the complaints are about overcrowding and the fact that during peak hours some passengers have to stand. We expect improvement when social distancing rules are removed which currently limit ridership to 75 percent capacity.”