Representatives of Ecuador’s tourism industry are crying foul following the imposition of new health emergency restrictions. “We weren’t expecting this and it’s almost like a nail in our coffin,” says Holbach Muñetón, president of the National Federation of Tourism Chambers of Ecuador. “We were beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel and looking forward to a strong holiday season and then the government imposed the new emergency declaration.”
According to Muñetón, the tourism sector has suffered almost $2 billion in losses in 2020. “Between 25 percent and 40 percent of tourism-based businesses have gone out of business since the beginning of the pandemic and we’ve lost 50,000 jobs,” he says. “At this point, we are in a daze and don’t know what to do. The government keeps promising help but we’ve seen nothing so far.”
Like representatives of other industries, Muñetón questions the timing and reasoning behind the state of emergency that was imposed on Monday. “If you look at the Covid charts published by the health ministry, you see the health situation is improving in the country. The cases are going down. The hospitalizations are going down. The deaths are going down. So why, all of a sudden, do we have new restrictions?”
He adds: “And it almost seems cruel to do this at Christmas and New Year’s. Why not wait another week so businesses can earn back some of the income they lost over the past year?”
Volcanic activity increases at Cotopaxi
Ecuador’s Geophysical Institute reports an increase in the internal activity at the Cotopaxi volcano south of Quito. “There has been a sharp increase in the number of earthquakes at the volcano in recent days and we are paying close attention to determine if this is a signal for a new phase of activity,” the institute said in a bulletin on Tuesday. The bulleten said the earthquakes do not necessarily indicate danger of an imminent eruption but says the monitoring efforts are being increased.
The world’s highest active volcano, Cotopaxi went through an active stage in late 2015 and early 2016 but there was no major eruption. The last eruption occurred in 1877 with smaller eruptions continuing for several years afterward.
Covid restrictions placed on election campaigning
Ecuador’s elections commission and the national Emergency Operations Committee has imposed a ban on large public gatherings during the presidential and National Assembly campaigns that begin in January. “Based on the continuing dangers of the Covid-19 pandemic, large campaign gatherings will not be allowed either indoors or out,” a COE statement said on Tuesday.
Campaigns will be allowed to conduct traditional caravans, either by vehicle or on foot, the COE said as long as face masks are worn. In the case of motor caravans, vehicle windows much remain open, the order said. The COE said that National Police and the armed forces will monitor political activity and enforce the new rules ahead of the February 7 election.
At least three presidential campaigns are objecting to the restrictions, claiming that they will eliminate traditional campaign speeches. They are asking for clarification.