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Understanding the Covid-19 health emergency rules … and when will they end?

On March 16, the day Ecuador’s Covid-19 virus case count reached 58, President Lenin Moreno declared a national health emergency, or emergencia sanitaria, and imposed Latin America’s toughest social distancing rules. Since the 60-day emergency decree was issued, the number of confirmed cases in Ecuador has soared to 1,835 and could approach 2,000 when Sunday’s numbers are reported.

A shopper in a Cuenca market.

Although the intent of the restrictions is clear, many of the details are not, partly because a number of them have been revised since March 16. In the last week, the curfew has been extended for the third time, travel between provinces and cantons has been restricted again and the number of days private cars are allowed on the street has been reduced. There will almost certainly be more changes in the weeks ahead.

Here are the key rules covered under the health emergency.

  1. Residents are under orders to stay home except to purchase food and medical supplies; to attend medical appointments; to get to work if the work is deemed essential by the government; to visit banks for essential business, such as taking out cash; and to care for the elderly or disabled. The order is in place until April 5 but the interior ministry says the date will be extended.
  2. Face-to-face contact is restricted as all public and private schools and universities are ordered closed; in-store restaurant service is discontinued although restaurants  are allowed to offer take-out and delivery service; all non-essential businesses are closed; and all non-essential government services are closed with employees ordered to work from home if possible. The order is in place until April 11 but is subject to extension.
  3. A nationwide curfew is in effect from 2 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily. Additional curfew restrictions apply in Guayas Province and in the Galapagos.
  4. International and national air travel has been suspended as has interprovincial bus service. Municipal bus service has been partially and completely suspended in most urban areas. These suspensions are scheduled to end April 5 but will likely be extended.
  5. Only one member per family is allowed to shop at supermarkets, mercados and pharmacies. Those under 18 or over 65 are not allowed to shop unless there are no others in the household between those ages. There are additional restrictions in Quito where the elderly have been defined as all those over 55. Shoppers are advised to wear masks and plastic gloves, which are requirements for entry at some stores and markets.
  6. Restrictions on the use of private vehicles mandate that vehicles with license plates ending in 1, 2 and 3 will be allowed to circulate only on Monday and Friday; vehicles with license plates ending in 4, 5 and 6 can circulate on Tuesday and Saturday; vehicles with license plates ending in in 7, 8 and 9 can circulate on Wednesday and Sunday; and vehicles with plates ending in 0 can circulate on Monday and Thursday. Vehicles are only allowed on the streets during non-curfew hours. On permitted days, drivers must have a legitimate reason for leaving home, such as to purchase food or medicine.
  7. Restrictions on highway travel allow only permitted vehicles making essential deliveries, such as food, medical supplies and fuel, to cross provincial borders, and travel between cantons is restricted to vehicles with authorized business.
Interior Minister María Paula Romo

When will the rules be relaxed? According to Interior Minister María Paula Romo, it is too early to say. “We have not yet reached the peak number of virus cases and it could be weeks after we do before we can make changes,” she says. “We all want to return to a normal life but we must overcome this terrible disease or there will be no normalcy. The emergency declaration is for a term of 60 days but this will be extended if necessary.”

Ecuador Health Minister Juan Carlos Zevallos believes that the country is on the right track. “We started earlier than most countries in imposing restrictions and even though we have seen rapid growth in the cases, our growth rate is significantly below that of other nations,” he says, adding that a lack of testing is a continuing problem.

As evidence that Ecuador’s stay-at-home order is having the desired effect, Zevallos points to the situation in the U.S. state of Florida, where similar orders have not been imposed. “At one point last week, Ecuador and Florida had the same number of confirmed cases and today Florida has more than twice the number we have. I think our rules have made a difference.”

55 thoughts on “Understanding the Covid-19 health emergency rules … and when will they end?

  1. The most recent driving restrictions make no sense, at not least in Cuenca where the streets were already practically deserted. Now, people who need to go to stock up on groceries (and can’t wait for whatever reason), are going to end up sharing a ride with a neighbor who can drive on the day they both need to go. This is going to cause *more* social contact, not less. In my case, I can only drive on Tuesdays and Sundays, but I get my monthly paycheck on Wednesday. I have a family of five and a lot of empty cupboards, so waiting until Sunday is not an option. I mean, we’re out of everything! Going to a local tienda is not going to meet our needs. I could take a taxi, but why would I want to expose myself to all the unknown contaminants of a hundred different passengers before me? I’ve been very supportive of all the other restrictions, but again, this one is going to cause more unnecessary exposure to other people than it’s going to prevent.

    1. What about having family size pizza or a bucket of KFC pizza delivered? Not the healthiest option, but it can be reheated in the microwave.

      1. I do not Jeff is interested in the S.A.D. / Standard American Diet garbage . And, neither should the standard ” Gringo – Gordo “. Obesity will not work in the obese American favor if this flu comes knocking with home delivery !

        1. Maybe not now post-surgery, but I am sure he enjoyed the Colonel’s in the past as much as Ecuadorians and I do on occasion.

    2. The idea is for people not to do unnecessary driving people dona lot of unnecessary driving. You are better to plan ahead for your total needs for the date you can get out for the better of all…

    3. In addition to a taxi there isn’t a Coral or a SuperMaxi that’s more than a 30 minute walk from anywhere in Cuenca.

      1. a lot of elderly can’t do a 1 hour return walk … especially when the return leg they are loaded down with bags of possible heavy items.

  2. Reducing the number of hours people can be outside seems counter-productive to me. It means more people outside at a given time, instead of spreading them out.

    1. I keep hearing this from inconvenienced gringos but it’s incorrect. There have been a number of epidemiological studies on this, including one by the CDC, that show that the overall reduction of exposure hours outweighs the extra concentration of people in places like grocery stores, where only a small percentage of those out on the street congregate at any given time.

      1. I’m a gringo with an Ecuadorian family of 5, plus a dog. My comments relate more to the average Cuencano family than they do other expats. Again — and as the rule is going to affect a lot more “average cuencano families” than anyone else — further limiting when they can drive (for essential purposes) is only going to force more people into sharing the same vehicle, which utterly defeats the goal of keeping them farther apart.

        1. “My comments relate more to the average Cuencano family”

          The “average” Cuencano family doesn’t have a car. They walk, bike, take the bus or a taxi.

      2. Reducing them to a reasonable extent, without a doubt. But if you push too far in one direction — without considering all of the consequences of taking it to an extreme level — is often going to be counter-productive.

      3. Without a link to those “studies” you are just asking us to trust you. Why would we?

    2. Look out your window there are not many people out at any times now. The preparations and the threat of exposure are keeping people inside along with there is nothing to do other than grocery shop or go to the bank and pharmacy. Also, note that everyone is wearing masks and gloves when they are out

    1. you mean, of course, for those with proper, unexpired cedulas? The Lysol virus will end when the banksters have drained the last dime out of the Treasury.

      1. So, Jeff — SOLVE THE PROBLEM… an idea for you –Why not contact the Minister of the Interior, Paula Romo? Scream at her for awhile. This crazy OUTPOURING of all your anxieties and worries is absolutely NOT GOING to find you any answers you want.
        Enough, already…. calmate.

  3. The World Health Organization has clearly stated that sheltering in place and social distancing are not enough. Those infected must be quarantined. The infected can only be identified with extensive testing. Without extensive testing and quarantining of those infected, the WHO has stated that the virus can be expected to surge again when the lockdown is lifted.

  4. Hey ! The USA has won the battle already!!! We are celebrating a job well done and those people in Michigan and Washington are getting no aid because they are unappreciative of the president and complainers. … and besides the flu kills more people anyway …. it will be all over by Easter ….. the economy will soar, just wait and see. It’s going to be a beautiful thing! So start gathering in your churches, on the streets and in restaurants !

    1. zanoni Missouri doesn’t like it when you say unkind things about trump, no matter how true they are.

  5. Check out YouTube:
    “Dr. David Price explains how transmission of coronavirus works”
    Learn how to be safe from a respected medical expert.

  6. The comparison to Florida is telling to the incompetence ruling in the USA and its leaders denial to Ecuador’s sobering and attentive approach to the seriousness of this pandemic and to saving humans lives.

    1. Zanoni missouri is one of those trumpsters that actually would defend trump if he shot someone on 5th Ave. in broad daylight. A True Believer, for sure.

      Add J.R. Delgado and Eric Ware to that ignominious list.

    2. The comparison of Florida and Ecuador that you are sharing is not very good nor scientific the median age and population are vastly different.

  7. There’s a lot of talk about “flattening the curve”. I think Ecuador might be trying to squash the curve with all the mandated restrictions in place. The strategy might be to suck it up and get over it as quick as possible. Regardless, there is a difference in how Ecuador and the US are responding to this crisis.
    Fate has us in the US during these times. I remember the day in late January leaving Cuenca and my brother in law joking that we were escaping the virus. I laughed not imagining how it would escape from China to the whole world. It wasn’t contained. By closing roads and transportation, and imposing curfews, Ecuador is trying to contain the virus from spreading between communities. That’s not being done here in the USA. Yesterday, the president suggested quarantining folks in the hot spot of NYC metropolitan/New Jersey/Connecticut with restrictions on travel to outside of the area. The three governors immediately shot him down and today it’s business as usual with unlimited travel to wherever you want to go. We live in New York State where the state has mandated most businesses to close. Right across the bridge into Pennsylvania, businesses and restaurants are open for business. That’s not containment. Up here, we’re trying to flatten the curve, not squash it.

  8. The 2PM is ridiculous, thankfully I live near el centro and have many market choices nearby, but if you’re living near the edge of town, it could be a long walk to the markets and they’re only open for a short period of time, and you have to wait in line to get inside. It would make sense for the buses to start running if they’re going to have these stupid 5AM to 2PM restrictions. I’m sure that the purpose of the earlier lockdown is to jam everyone into the stores at the same time and of course increase business for taxi drivers.

    I’m glad I live in Cuenca though, because if I lived in Quito I’d be considered old.

  9. What about telecommunications stores? I need to go to Movistar because my phone is non-functional, and the message says I need service. Can I go there and are they open?

  10. This is all such a giant hoax to bring in the NWO, manipulating numbers about one of many flu viruses that isn’t really any worse than others, to get us used to being controlled, & bring in the vaccines. Just about everyone is carrying some type of c-virus. Whatever the cause of death, this makes it easy to list c-virus on the death certificate. A ubiquitous virus is the perfect thing to use to create fear, panic. Wake up! I strenuously object to having my god-given freedoms taken for a nothing burger that’s a flu virus.

    1. You are wrong…it is NOT a hoax.
      As you are being cynical first think about your loved ones and the ones that are not as healthy and will be severely affected.
      We have to do our best to protect everyone.

      if you talk to the doctors, nurses and medical personnel they will tell you that the hospitals are like war zones with not enough beds and respirators for the Covid-19 cases.

      Convincing others to be sceptical or doubtful makes people less careful of the dangers of this pandemic. When people are careless there is a risk more will get infected

    2. When you watch a football game and the players are in their huddle, do you think that they are plotting the New World Order and how to take away your freedoms?

  11. Bravo all around. We are just fine being here and abiding by these rules. Aside from our grown kids, and all our friends, who are in the US (and having no problem abiding by the rules there, albeit they are not as strict, but they are imposing their own rules to stay safe), we are glad we are not there right now, as many of our friends are very frustrated with the situation there. And here’s a PSA: many of you who post such whiny, negative, it’s all about me posts, take a pandemic rest and spare the rest of us. We really are tired of you now.

  12. Anybody know? What about telecommunications stores? I need to get to Movistar because my phone is non-functional, and the message says I need service. Can I go there and are they open?

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