Time to reopen country’s businesses, Moreno says; Cuenca bus owners face bankruptcy; Fuel subsidy elimination plans move forward

May 8, 2020 | 45 comments

It’s time to get back to work.

Work resumed Monday at this Cuenca housing project. (El Tiempo)

That’s the message President Lenin Moreno delivered to the country Thursday night in a television address. “We have worked hard to overcome the deadly coronavirus and we continue with that mission but it is now time to begin our return to normal life and the restoration of the economy,” he said. “We must do this carefully and deliberately so we protect our citizens from the virus. We will progress in stages established by the Ministry of Health and the Emergency Operations Committee (EOC) but we must begin the progression soon. Our way of life depends on it.”

Moreno’s message was an abrupt about-face from statements he made earlier this week that it was too early to lift the health emergency lockdown.

“We have established the protocols for the transition from the health emergency and I call on the country’s 221 mayor’s to work with the EOC to restore our economic vitality as quickly as is safely possible,” the president said.

Moreno said that many businesses are already operating “clandestinely and informally” and said such activity is not fair to businesses that follow health emergency rules. “I understand that people and businesses are desperate to return to work but this must be coordinated with plans to maintain public safety.”

Virus update

55 local construction projects to reactive next week
While work has resumed at one construction site in Cuenca, next week will see workers at 55 sites. Minister of Social Inclusion Iván Granda said Thursday that discussions are underway with local contractors to return safely to major projects around the city. “We must protect against the Covid-19 virus but it is equally important that we put the construction sector back to work,” Granda said. He added that in the coming days all construction workers will be tested for the virus and safety precautions will be put in place. He said that more than 65,000 will return to work on projects in the coming weeks.

Plans to eliminate subdidies move forward
The government’s plan to eliminate gasoline and diesel fuel subsidies is a “work in progress” according to Finance Minister Richard Martínez. “We hope to have the changes completed within a matter of weeks and they will save the country hundreds of millions of dollars,” He said. “Just as important, the new plan will save consumers money too due to the low market price of fuel.”

‘We are desperate,’ city bus owners say
Many bus owners in the Cuenca municipal bus system say they are days away from going bankrupt. “We are desperate and must return to work immediately if the system is to remain operational,” Manolo Solís, president of the Cuenca Transportation Chamber, said Thursday in a Voz del Tomebamba interview. He also said that a 30 percent bus occupancy limit suggested by the city’s transportation office for safety reasons is not feasible. “We must return to full ridership or our owners will not be able to provide service.”

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