Although the Cuenca Emergency Operations Committee (COE) has canceled a number of large Christmas and New Year’s events, it says it does not have the authority to restrict gatherings of family and friends. “Without a national state of emergency, we cannot restrict the movement of people or infringe on their right to gather in small groups during the holidays,” says municipal councilman and COE member Xavier Barrera. “We must rely on the good judgment of residents to practice the biosecurity measures necessary to control the spread of Covid-19.”
In recent days, the COE and city government has reversed course on several restrictions that it did, in fact, have the authority to impose. Following protests from vendors, local authorities agreed to allow small holiday crafts fairs and the sale of New Year’s Eve dummies. Still in place is a prohibition on the sale of fireworks although small groups are allowed to discharge fireworks already in their possession.
In November, the COE cancelled the annual Pase del Niño Christmas Eve parade and other city-sponsored parades, concerts and contests that had been planned.
Barrera said the COE was encouraged by the lack of a Covid case surge following the Cuenca holidays and Day of the Dead at the beginning of November. “Despite the large gatherings, we did not have the increase of cases that we feared and we credit the people with taking health precautions for preventing this.”
Barrera said that the restriction on private vehicle use from 11 p.m. until 5 a.m. that is already in place will be strictly enforced during the holidays.
He added that the steady down-trend of Covid cases and deaths in Cuenca since July and August appears to be continuing.
Manta mayor hospitalized with Covid
Manta Mayor Agustín Intriago, 35, was in critical condition Friday night at the Manabí Social Security Hospital, suffering from a severe Covid-19 infection. Doctors say Intriago was placed in a coma to allow intubation due to lung congestion. Deputy Mayor Raúl Castro said the mayor may be transferred to the Luis Vernaza Hospital in Guayaquil if his condition does not improve in the next 24 hours.
Inter-provincial bus tickets can be purchased online
For the first time last week, passengers on interprovincial buses were able to buy tickets online. The new service, Vamos en Bus por Ecuador, is available through a website, www.vamospasajes.com, or on Facebook or WhatsApp. According to Vamos, passengers can also check timetables, costs and make seat selections through the new app. In Cuenca, the bus companies Flota Imbabura, Amazonas, Cooperativa Loja and Transesmeraldas are participating in the new program and other companies are expected to join in the coming weeks.
Ecuador takes first step to extend protected waters
Ecuador has applied to the United Nations to expand its sovereign claim to Pacific Ocean waters. The addition of 250,000 square kilometers would connect the country’s current offshore claim to the protected waters surrounding the Galapagos Islands, effectively prohibiting foreign fishing fleets in the area. In recent years, large Chinese fleets have spent several months each year working the waters between the Galapagos and the mainland despite protests from the Ecuadorian government. Foreign Minister Luis Gallegos said the application to extend the protected ocean area could take four to five years but he said he is confident the extension will be granted.
Under the proposed extension, Ecuador would claim sovereignty over an area of 1.2 million square kilometers of the Pacific.