Restart of air travel is uncertain; Universities face budget cuts; Covid-19 sparks fake news

May 5, 2020 | 38 comments

Ecuador’s civil aviation authority says no dates have been set for the resumption of national and international flights. In addition, it says it has no idea what airlines will continue to operate in the country or what the schedules will be.

Latam is one of the airlines said to be facing bankruptcy.

“Like the rest of world, we are awaiting the lifting of flight restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 health emergency. Decisions regarding flights will be a joint decision of the Emergency Operations Committee, the Ministry of Health and the civil aviation office,” the agency reported on its website.

A former civil aviation director described the short-term future of air travel as “grim” due to the collapsing financial health of the airlines. “Most carriers are on life support at the moment, begging governments for money, and there is little clarity about what to expect,” says Jorge Alvarez. “Airlines that continue to operate are flying at five to eight percent capacity, which is obviously not sustainable. I expect there will be many bankruptcies and major consolidation in the industry.”

He predicted that Colombian carrier Avianca will file for bankruptcy within days with others to follow.

“As far as when flights resume in Ecuador, both internal and international, I understand it will be within two months,” Alvarez says. “I have herad that late June or early July is the target but this depends entirely on the status of the coronavirus.” He said that national flights would probably resume before international flights.

He added: “At the beginning, there will be far fewer flights than we had in February and fewer airlines operating. The ‘new normal’ will not be pretty and besides Quito, Guayaquil and probably Cuenca, some airports will have no service at all.”

Virus updates

University budgets cut by 5%
Ecuador’s public universities are protesting a decision by the Ministry of Finance to cut operating budgets at all facilities by five percent. The ministry cited the Covid-19 health emergency as well as the collapse of oil prices for the move. “These are very dire times for the country and many budgets will be adjusted downward as a result,” the ministry said in a statement. The ministry said the cuts will result in the savings of almost $100 million.

The University of Cuenca

The rector of the University of Cuenca warned that the budget reduction will mean the termination of some staff and faculty. “We were already operating with inadequate funding and this decision will make matters much worse. If it is not reversed, we will be forced into draconian actions,” he said.

Journalists and the UN fight Covid-19 fake news
The Interior Ministry and the Ecuador union of journalists participated in a virtual conference Monday regarding the proliferation of fake news. The conference was hosted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on International Press Freedom Day.

“Accurate information is critically important as we face the Covid pandemic,” said UN Secretary General António Guterres. “Unfortunately, in the midst of this tragedy, we are seeing great amounts of fake news.” He cited widely circulated stories that the virus was man-made in the U.S. for the purpose of infecting the Chinese people while in the U.S. rumors circulate that suggest the opposite.

“The majority of the misinformation is passed through social media but some of it makes its way into the general print and electronic media as well,” he said. “We understand that most of it comes from ignorant, uneducated people but some of it is malicious in its intent. We ask all professional journalist to fight inaccurate information and provide the public with accurate and verifiable news.”

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