Vaccine mandate goes into effect Thursday as Omicron cases reach 21; New restrictions added

Dec 22, 2021 | 27 comments

Beginning Thursday, December 23, entry to shopping centers, grocery stores, public food markets, restaurants, theaters, cinemas, banks and other financial institutions, and public transportation will require proof of vaccination. In addition, the National Emergency Operations Committee ordered that bars and nightclubs be closed and that public and private holiday events be suspended.

Health Minister Ximena Garzón and National Emergency Operations Committee President Juan Zapata at a Tuesday press conference.

The restrictions will remain in effect until January 23 but will be extended if necessary, Health Minister Ximena Garzón said.

The COE and Health Ministry said that an increase in Covid cases and the spread of the Omicrcon variant — cases of which numbered 21 as of Tuesday afternoon — required the latest actions. COE President Juan Zapata said the new policies are a national mandate and not recommendations to municipal and provincial governments. “It is time to begin full enforcement of the rules on a countrywide basis to prevent a new surge in Covid cases,” he said. “The COE and the health ministry are providing information to the businesses and services affected by these measures.”

At Tuesday’s press conference with Garzón, Zapata said there were some exceptions to the restrictions. “These rules apply only to optional activities, such as dining out and attending concerts, they do not apply to essential services such as health care and education,” he said. “Pharmacies and clinics, for example, will not require vaccine certificates. Schools and educational facilities are also exempt although we will institute new health protocols in these cases to keep participants safe.”

In addition to the vaccine mandates, Zapata said that the capacity limitations announced last week will remain in place. Public markets, grocery stores and museums can operate at 75 percent capacity while restaurants, churches, craft fairs, cinemas, theaters and gyms are restricted to 50 percent.

The COE announced the new capacity limits and vaccine mandate December 15 but modified the order two days later, making it a recommendation that local governments enforce the proof of vaccination rule. “It is no longer a recommendation,” Zapata said Tuesday.

In her comments, Garzón said that the increase in Covid-19 cases continues to be in “the very low numbers.” She also said that all the Omicron cases continue to be mild, with cold- and flu-like symptoms.

Also on Tuesday, President Guillermo Lasso assured Ecuadorians that there would be no new lockdowns. “We are applying health restrictions as necessary but we consider these to be short-term issues. There will be no lockdowns such as we experienced in early 2020.”