Although the government does not keep records on the number of Ecuadorians traveling to the U.S., travel industry officials say the number is up at least 150 percent since early in the year. The majority of the additional travel, they say, is for the purpose of getting a Covid-19 vaccine.
“Flights to Miami and New York that were flying at 75 percent capacity in January, are now full and charter flights have been added in Quito, Guayaquil and Latacunga,” says Rodrigo Ramos, president of the Quito Association of Tour Operators. “The preferred destination appears to be Miami but there is also big demand for New York and New Jersey flights.”
The typical Ecuadorian traveler on a so-called vaccine vacation, spends three nights in Miami or New York and takes the Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccine before returning home, Ramos says. He adds that air fare, lodging and transfer costs an average of $1,500 per person for Miami and $1,800 for New York, although he says packages are available for as little as $1,100 to Miami.
“The preference is for Miami because it’s cheaper and because of the beaches and nightlife,” Ramos says. “Another major draw is that Miami is a Hispanic city and mostly Spanish-speaking. There’s a reason why they call it the capital of Latin America and this offers great comfort to Ecuadorian travelers.”
In addition to the short vaccination trips, Ramos says 15 to 20 percent of Ecuadorian travelers are staying for three or four weeks, long enough to take the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. “Many of them have family in the States and are able to plan longer trips. For these people, their preference is the two-dose Pfizer shot.”
Ecuador on list to receive U.S. vaccines
Ecuador is included on the list of countries in South America, Central America, Africa and Asia that will receive excess doses of the Covid-19 vaccine from the U.S. President Joe Biden announced Thursday that the first shipment of about six million doses will be distributed in the next two weeks. Biden said the U.S. will donate 80 million doses in total before September.
The vaccines from the U.S., to be delivered through the World Health Organization’s COVAX program, are the result of waning demand. Almost 70 percent of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of the vaccine and the number of shots administered per day has dropped from a high of 3.3 million to 1.2 million. Health experts say they expect more than 75 percent of the U.S. population to be vaccinated by the end of August.
The picture is much different in the rest of the world. The WHO says that most of the world’s poorer countries have vaccinated less than four percent of their populations while the poorest 30 countries have vaccinated less than half of one percent. Among Latin American countries, Ecuador is near the top of the vaccination list, with more than 10 percent of the population receiving at least one dose. Chile leads the region, administering at least one dose to 70 percent of its population.
Among the countries to receive the U.S. vaccines in Latin America are Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Peru, Ecuador, Paraguay, Bolivia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama, Haiti and other countries of the Community of the Caribe (Caricom), as well as the Dominican Republic.
The health ministry says it does know the exact number of U.S. doses Ecuador will receive but believes it will be 400,000 to 500,000.
Pachakutik National Assembly members warn of strike
National Assembly members of the indigenous Pachakutik party are asking for a meeting with President Guillermo Lasso to discuss public bus fares and rising electric rates. The group also wants to make sure that transport costs for food do not rise. The request for a meeting follows the announcement of a national protest against rising fuel costs by the Peasant Movement of Cotopaxi, a leftist group that opposes Pachakutik’s ties to Lasso.
Pachakutik assemblyman Salvador Quishpe said Friday that there is growing anger over the increase in inter-provincial bus fares the government of Lenin Moreno agreed to in April as well as to recent increases in electric bills. “We ask the president to find a solution to higher bus fares and insist on alternatives to reduce costs for the poorer members of the population,” he said. “If fuel costs are allowed to increase, a mechanism must be found to reduce the impact on those who depend on public transportation, whether it be subsidized fares or another solution.”
Quishpe and other Pachakutik members claim that the Moreno government broke its promise to continue the fuel subsidy as a condition of ending the October 2019 national strike. “In decree 883, he said prices would not increase then he turned around and ended the subsidy during the pandemic when we were not allowed to protest.”
If an agreement cannot be reached with Lasso, Quishpe said he supports a national strike.