In a press conference at the Mariscal La Mar Airport Saturday, Mayor Pedro Palacios said at least three more airlines want to enter the Cuenca market. Palacios was joined by Avianca’s regional director David Alemán who announced earlier last week that his airline would begin service to Cuenca in October.
“Before the pandemic, there were six or seven daily Cuenca-Quito flights and it is our goal to return to that frequency,” Palacios said. He added that two of the airlines considering Cuenca service will provide flights to Guayaquil. “As of today, another airline besides Latam and Avianca has been approved for service and two more have filed applications with the Civil Aviation Agency.”
Alemán said Avianca will offer $25 introductory fares and the airlines may consider adding Cuenca flights to Peru in the future. In the 1990s, Cuenca had connections to Lima, Cusco and Piura. “Cuenca is a growing market of more than 700,000 and the airport serves all of southern Ecuador,” he said. “Growth will be slow at first but we anticipate acceleration in the coming months.”
Avianca is emerging from bankruptcy declared at the beginning of the pandemic and filed its plan to exit the process two weeks ago. Part of the plan is the addition of 23 flights, including the one in Cuenca and flights between Ecuador and Miami and New York.
Government, transporters agree to fuel study
Following two days of meetings last week, the government, taxi and bus companies and trucking companies agreed to conduct a study of targeted fuel subsidies by a consulting firm. “We are working to find a comprehensive and long-term solution to a problem that has existed for many years,” Finance Minister Simón Cueva said following Friday’s meeting. “We will conduct the study as quickly as possible and hope to implement the results in October.”
Trucking company representative Napoleón Cabrera said he and other transport sector agents were pleased with the result of the meetings. “We wish the fuel cost relief would come sooner but we understand the need to consider the plan carefully before putting it into action. We believe the government is working in good faith to find a solution.”
In addition to the subsidy, the meeting also covered fuel quality and the need to complete the vaccination process for all public transport drivers.
Covid deaths drop as vaccinations advance
While still urging adherence to pandemic health protocols, the Ministry of Health reported Saturday that hospitalizations and deaths from Covid-19 continue to decline nationwide. “This is a three-month trend thanks to the vaccination program that is protecting almost 80 percent of our elderly and immuno-compromised residents,” said Health Minister Ximena Garzón. “Official Covid deaths and above-average deaths, some of which are due to Covid but not reported, are dropping. Deaths have been below 50 per day for more than a month.”
The Ministry said intensive care hospital beds are opening up around the country, including at hospitals in Quito and Cuenca that have been full for months. “Everywhere we look there is improvement,” the minister added.
Of Covid patients who are currently hospitalized or who have recently died, Guayaquil epidemiologist Carlos Farhat said almost all of them were unvaccinated. “Of 300 coronavirus deaths we have reviewed since early July, only two were of fully vaccinated patients and these were ill with preexisting diseases,” Farhat said. “Of 400 hospitalized, only 11 were fully vaccinated. There are cases of infections among the vaccinated but these are typically mild.”
He added that in his review, the efficicay of the Sinovac vaccine was equal to that of the Pfizer vaccine. “We have heard suggestions that there was a difference in effectiveness but that does not show up in our cases.”