Cuenca maintains the ‘red light’ lockdown until May 17; Business closure warning; Moreno says a million tests are on the way; New IMF loan

May 2, 2020 | 95 comments

There will be no changes to the Covid-19 health emergency restrictions in Cuenca until at least May 17. The city joined all but five of the country’s 221 municipalities Friday in deciding to delay changes to the current “red light” status.

Cuenca still struggles to control public gatherings such as this one near the 9 de Octubre market and Civic Plaza. (El Tiempo)

“It is not yet the time to move to a yellow or green light on any of the rules that protect public health,” Cuenca Mayor Pedro Palacios said. “Within the next 16 days, we will conduct a complete evaluation of the situation in the city and be prepared to make changes on May 17 that are appropriate.”

Several municipal council members said that the city must gather more information about the spread of Covid-19 before it decides to relax restrictions. “We are doing well now compared to other cities in Ecuador and internationally and we want to maintain that level of security,” said councilman Paul Granda. “Once we see more definitive data we will be ready to make changes.”

On Friday, a study prepared by the Military Geographical Institute and University of Cuenca professor Daniel Orellana ranked Cuenca 34th in Ecuador for Covid-19 infections per 100,000 of population. Guayaquil, which has endured an intensive outbreak, ranks first. “This is good news and reflects that efforts the residents of Cuenca have made to adhere to restrictions,” Granda said. “It is also reflected in the fact that our hospitals and clinics are not over-burdened with virus patients.”

He conceded that the city continues to struggle to contain unauthorized gatherings around a number of markets.

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Meanwhile on Friday, hotel and restaurant owner Juan Pablo Vintimilla said that a number of Cuenca’s prominent hospitality institutions could close permanently. “Owners will not be able to cover overhead expenses for much longer and we pray for improvement in the virus status and a relaxing of restrictions.” Vintimillia, owner of the Cuenca Bottling Company, has an interest in the Santa Lucia Hotel, the Cafe del Museo, La Placita and El Mercado restaurants, among others.

Virus update

Moreno acknowledges mistakes, says a million tests are on the way
President Lenin Moreno said Friday that the government recognizes its failures to respond adequately to the Covid-19 outbreak in Guayas Province. “We regret with much sadness and discomfort the poor handling of the deceased in Guayaquil,” he said. “The spike of cases was unexpected and caught us off our guard and we acknowledge our failures.”

He added, however, that the health emergency restrictions in the rest of the country have worked as planned and have seen Ecuador reach a “plateau” in the number of virus cases. “We have flattened the curve but we still have a long way to go to return to normal,” he said. “The trend is down but the process will be slow.”

Also on Friday, Moreno said that the country will receive one million new tests over the next 80 days that will determine active virus cases as well as cases of those who have been infected and have recovered. “The test results will guide us through the recovery stages,” he said.

Country receives IMF loan
The International Monetary Fund approved a $643 million loan to Ecuador on Thursday, the Ministry of Finance reported. The money will be used for the Covid-19 health emergency and for other essential services.

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