Vaccination complaints increase in Cuenca; Lasso pledges $500 wage; Tourism businesses demand assistance; Abandoned pets increase by 90%

May 3, 2021 | 19 comments

Area news media say it is receiving a deluge of complaints about the Covid-19 vaccination program in Cuenca and Azuay Province. The complaints include unannounced changes in vaccination locations, cancelled appointments, lack of notification of appointments, lack of documentation and a disconnect between public health ministry announcements and vaccination stations. Social media platforms are also filled with criticism of the program.

Complaints are growing about confusion in the local vaccination program. (El Mercurio)

In several cases, residents who received the first dose of Pfizer vaccine and went back for the second were told that only the Similac vaccine was available and they would have to wait.

The El Mercurio newspaper, which says it has received more than 50 complaints, said the regional health ministry office acknowledged the problems and said it was working on solutions. “This is a massive public health project and sometimes the messages sent from the appointments center do not reach those administering the vaccines,” a ministry spokeswoman said. “We are taking steps to improve the communication.”

In a Friday radio interview, regional health ministry coordinator Julio Molina’s comment that people should go to the vaccine center designated in their appoint text message or email was met with dozens of complaints that they were told to go to other locations when they showed up. Contacted later, he acknowledged scheduling problems and said his office is working on corrections.

Lasso pledges minimum wage of $500
In a May 1 Labor Day statement, President-elect Guillermo Lasso pledged to increase Ecuador’s minimum wage to $500 a month by the end of his four-year term. “The struggles of the workers must be recognized and their efforts should be rewarded with decent, well paid jobs,” he said on his Twitter account. In a follow-up message, he said the country’s 33 percent poverty rate was unacceptable. “This number means that there is great suffering in the land and reducing this percentage will be a priority for my government.”

A group of street dogs in Cuenca.

Number of abandoned dogs at record high
According to animal protection groups, the number of abandoned dogs has increased as much as 90 percent since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the animal rights organization Animal Protection Ecuador, the skyrocketing numbers are the result of owners being unable to care for their pets because of loss of income. “This is a heartbreaking situation for animal lovers,” says PAE coordinator Shady Heredia. “The focus is understandably on the people who are suffering but that suffering inevitably leads to suffering for pets, mostly dogs.”

According PAE, the number of dogs on the streets has increased 90 percent in Quito and 70 percent in Cuenca since early 2020. Although both cities have ordinances prohibiting animal abandonment, there has been little enforcement due to the health emergency. “The government’s concern must be to help people and enforce health rules but we are urging officials to pay more attention to the tragedy of homeless pets,” Heredia says.

She adds that the number of abandoned cats has also increased during the pandemic.

Tourism and restaurants complain about restrictions
Representatives of Ecuador’s tourism and hospitality industries are appealing to President Lenin Moreno and President-elect Guillermo Lasso to provide financial support to the sector. “With the new health emergency, we are confronted with more restrictions and more penalties but there is no compensation for our losses,” says Norman Bock, representative of hotel owners. “Businesses in other countries are receiving direct payments and low-interest loans to help them through the crisis but in Ecuador we receive nothing. At the very least, we should receive tax deferrals and extensions on loan payment schedules but there has been no action on this.”

Holbach Muñetón, director of the Federation of Tourism Chambers, says the hospitality industry deserves special consideration because of the large numbers it employees. “Hundreds of thousands work in the tourism and hospitality sectors and we have been forced to lay off a large percentage of our staffs. The government should recognize the terrible toll its actions are taking on families and provide support to businesses so they can maintain employment.”