New pandemic restrictions take effect today; Vaccine checks will be left to local governments

Dec 17, 2021 | 71 comments

New measures intended to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus go into effect today. Announced Monday by the Emergency Operations Committee (COE), they prohibit public events that have not been permitted, limit the capacity for restaurants, churches, shopping centers and other indoor businesses and activities, and prohibit consumption of alcohol in public areas.

Ecuador restaurant owners report they had received no instructions about the vaccine entry requirement as of Thursday night.

The restrictions will remain in place until Monday, January 3, and could be extended depending on pandemic conditions.

In a change from the rules announced Monday, the COE will allow local governments to decide if they follow its guidance requiring vaccine certificates for entry at locations with capacity limits. Originally, the committee said that the vaccine checks was a mandate that would be enforced by the National Police.

Under the new restrictions, all public and private events, such as concerts, parades, festivals and novenas are prohibited if they were not approved by December 14. The tradition of burning dummies on public streets on New Year’s Eve is also banned.

On Thursday, Cuenca Police Commander Andrés Vicuña said the Pase del Niño Christmas Eve parade was included in the ban because the Catholic Church had not applied for a permit by the deadline. Cuenca’s Pase del Niño is the largest Christmas parade in Ecuador and one of the largest in South America and thousands of participants had already made preparations for the event, its organizers say.

Among other restrictions are a capacity limit of 50 percent for restaurants, bars, discotheques, convention centers, social clubs, brothels and game rooms.

For shopping centers, markets, outdoor crafts fairs and supermarkets, capacity will be restricted to 75 percent.

Beaches also have a 75 percent capacity limit and will only be allowed to be open to the public from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

President of the national COE, Juan Zapata, said the decision to allow local authorities to decide on and enforce vaccine checks was based on logistics. “Following consultations and further review, it made sense to turn this responsibility over the local authorities,” he said. “Although we believe this requirement is very important, the national government does not have the resources or personnel to monitor this process and we believe it is best left to the GADS [local governments].”

As of Thursday night, the late vaccination mandate change was causing confusing for businesses around the country. In Cuenca, Quito and Guayaquil, restaurant and shopping center managers said they had received no instructions from local authorities. In Cuenca, four restaurant owners consulted by a radio station said they will not check the vaccine status of customers unless they receive orders from city or local COE officials.

An unnamed owner of a restaurant near Parque Calderon expressed anger at the new rules and uncertainty about the vaccine check. “The 50 percent rule is terrible since this is the busiest time of year for us,” he said. “And I have no intention of checking vaccines unless the police tell me to. Why would I want to turn away the little business I have? This is not a very happy Christmas for me and my staff.