Quito businesses protest new Covid crackdown; Prominent Cuenca doctor faces homicide charge; KLM flight suspension could affect vaccine deliveries

Jan 24, 2021 | 16 comments

The Quito Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber of Industries and Production and the Quito Restaurant Association are appealing to Mayor Jorge Yunda to roll back new restrictions on driving, business hours and liquor sales. Diego Vivero, representing the restaurant association, said the new restrictions are unjustified and the health of business and employment is just as important as the health of citizens.

Family and friends of eight-year-old Sofía Granda protest outside the Cuenca judicial center. (El Mercurio)

On Thursday, Yunda issued an order that all businesses, including restaurants and shopping malls, close from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., banned motor vehicle traffic from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m., and prohibited liquor sales on Friday, Saturday and Sunday after 10 p.m. The mayor said the measures were required due to rising rates of Covid-19 infections, overburdened hospitals and concerns over the spread of new variants of the Covid virus.

“The health of the business and productive sector must be taken into account when decisions are made,” Vivero said. “The city has suffered 14 billion dollars in losses since the beginning of the pandemic and more than 120,000 jobs have been lost. This is a crisis every bit as serious as the one affecting our physical health.” He also blamed restrictions for the rising crime rate in Quito.

KLM suspends flights, disrupts transport of vaccines
The Dutch airline KLM announced Friday it is suspending all flights to and from Latin America, including Ecuador, Africa and Great Britain due to new Covid-19 safety requirements mandated by the government of the Netherlands. The requirements are based on concerns about the spread of the pandemic due to more contagious variants of the virus. In addition to the disruption of air service to Ecuador, the indefinite suspension of flights could affect the delivery of Covid vaccines. The first shipment of vaccines arrived last week aboard a KLM aircraft.

The airport management at the international airports in Quito and Guayaquil said they are concerned that other airlines will also suspend service due to the new wave of Covid restrictions around the world.

Prominent doctor faces trial for girl’s tonsillectomy death
Dr. Juan Pablo Arias will go on trial later this month on charges of culpable homicide and professional malpractice in the death of eight-year-old girl Sofía Granda. Granda died November 18, 2019 at Hospital del Rio as a result of a severed cartoid artery suffered during a tonsillectomy. If convicted on the homicide charge, Arias could face one to three years in prison.

The Granda family claims the trial has been delayed due to Aria’s prominent position in the Cuenca medical community and his partnership at Hospital del Rio. Family and friends have protested the delay outside the provincial court in Cuenca for several weeks, attributing it to interference by the hospital and the local medical community. Judge Carlos Julio Guzmán, from the Azuay Penal Unit will preside at the trial, the date for which is yet to be determined.

Arias, an otolaryngologist, and his attorney claim the girl’s death was a tragic accident and he does not deserve a prison term.