President Guillermo Lasso said Tuesday there will be no more pandemic lockdowns for Ecuador. “Future confinements are out of the question,” he told reporters during a Tuesday morning interview at the Presidential Palace in Quito.
The president said Ecuador can “afford this luxury” because of the country’s high vaccination rate and the low number of deaths and hospitalizations. “I do not take the entry of the Omicron variant lightly and recognize we will have an increase in cases and hospitalizations,” he said. “Based on our successful vaccination program, which ranks among the top 10 in the world, and the mild nature of Omicron, we will weather the storm without having to take actions that cause extreme social and economic disruption.”
Lasso said he believes the country will reach an 85 percent vaccination rate for Ecuadorians five years of age and older by the end of February. “Our goal is to vaccinate 16,100,000 by the end of next month, which will mean we will achieve what the experts call herd immunity,” he said. “We have already fully vaccinated 13,400,000 people.”
He added that Ecuador has more than enough vaccines to achieve the 85 percent target, saying there are five million doses on hand with another 3,700,000 arriving by the end of January. He said seven percent of the population has received a third booster shot. “The government is struggling through difficult financial times but we have spared no expense in making certain we have the vaccines we need,” he said.
In an earlier radio interview, Lasso deflected a question about his role in moderating the national vaccine mandate issued by the Ministry of Health and the National Emergency Operations Committee two weeks ago. Unnamed sources claim that the president insisted that there be no penalties for those who refuse vaccination, requiring the Health Ministry to remove penalty language from its mandate plan. “I am in close contact with both the COE and the Ministry and we talk about many issues,” he said. “I fully support their effort to protect the public health.”
In addition to discussing the pandemic response, Lasso said he would keep to his word not to increase the price of gasoline and diesel fuel. “We are not going to increase those costs, I want to be absolutely clear,” he said. He said he could not accommodate the demands of Conaie President Leonidas Iza to roll back fuel prices to January 2021 levels. “My job is not to give pleasure to those who would throw stones. What Señor Iza wants is to overthrow the government and I do not intend to give him that satisfaction.”
Asked about his proposal to reform the labor law, Lasso said he would share his plan with the people before submitting it to the National Assembly. “We will talk to the people first and make changes, if necessary, based on their advice,” he said. He added that his proposal will not affect those currently protected under the current labor law.