Teachers union plans Friday protest in Cuenca and other cities; Many ignore mask mandate as no fines are issued; Census concludes on December 18

Dec 12, 2022 | 10 comments

The National Union of Educators has called for an anti-government protest Friday, December 16. The union said it is soliciting support from other labor, student and indigenous organizations for mobilizations targeting the capitals of Ecuador’s largest provinces, Quito, Guayaquil, Portoviejo and Cuenca.

UNE is blaming the government for ignoring a court order to increase the pay of thousands of teachers, for failing to increase security at public schools and for not using all education funding appropriated in the 2022 budget.

In addition, the union says the government has not done enough to encourage the return of 220,000 students who dropped out of schools and universities during the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the UNE, the “catastrophic drop” in enrollment has left some teachers without employment.

“The government has forgotten about public education in Ecuador at a time when it is more critical than ever,” says UNE President Isabel Vargas. “We face several crisis that require educated citizens and there is no urgency to support the system or even to follow the law.”

Health Minister doesn’t expect masking fines
Health Minister José Ruales said Friday he does not expect fines to be issued to Ecuadorians who do not follow masking rules issued last week by the Emergency Operations Committee. “We hope that the population will understand the seriousness of the situation and respond positively but I do not anticipate sanctions will be applied. This is a matter of personal responsibility and we believe most citizens will understand.”

Ruales’ comments followed news reports that many people are ignoring the COE order to wear masks in enclosed areas. In Cuenca, a survey conducted by two radio stations found that most stores were not requiring masking and that about 15% of bus and tranvia passengers were unmasked. Compliance rates were slightly higher in Quito, according to the newspaper El Comercio.

Diego Idrovo, who represents Cuenca bus owners, said it will be up to passengers to mask up . “We do not have have the personnel to enforce mask-wearing mandates and will rely on the common sense of riders to protect themselves.”

Ruales said that the need for masking is the result of a surge in respiratory illnesses and higher rates of hospital admissions. The largest concern, he said, regards the rise in influenza AH3N2 cases, which account for more than 75% of hospitalizations. There has also been a spike in Covid-19 Omicron cases but most of these have been mild, he said.

On Saturday, the National Police said it has not received orders to sanction those not wearing face masks.

Census concludes December 18
The National Census Management says it will conclude national census data collection on Sunday, December 18, with results being announced in May 2023.

Census officials say the process has encountered delays in coastal provinces affected by high rates of criminal activity. “In some neighborhoods of Guayaquil, Manta, Santa Elena and Esmeraldas, residents are reluctant to open their doors to census employees due fear of thieves,” says Census Director Luis Lara. “In some cases, police have accompanied our personnel to conduct interviews.”

Overall, Lara says, the process has gone smoothly and the results will have a high rate of accuracy. “We are approaching 70% completion of household surveys, either through online reporting or in-person visits and are rapidly concluding the process.”

According to the census office, census-takers can be identified by their blue apron and cap. They will also show identification when they knock on doors.