In the process of de-escalation of the quarantine due to the coronavirus, the Government of Ecuador has authorized the opening of temples and churches for the faithful to come to them for a maximum of 15 minutes, and for the airports to resume 30 percent passenger flights starting June 1.
This was stated this Friday by the Government Minister (Interior), María Paula Romo, who also chairs the Emergency Operations Committee (COE), the body in charge of directing actions to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
Romo, in a virtual press conference, specified that the COE has authorized that the temples and churches, under strict sanitary norms such as the use of masks and social distancing, open in municipalities that embrace the “yellow” color of the epidemiological traffic light applied to lift the quarantine, which has been in existence for more than two months.
In “yellow,” said the minister, religious ceremonies will not be authorized, although it will give way to the opening of churches and temples for the faithful to attend for a maximum of 15 minutes, according to the protocols presented by different congregations and which have been accepted by the COE.
Romo’s announcement comes at a time when the municipality of Guayaquil, the capital of the province of Guayas, the one most affected by the pandemic, has gone “yellow,” while the Quito municipality hopes to decide next week whether to keep or not “red”.
The minister recalled, on the other hand, that the airports, which have not closed their cargo operations, have been authorized to resume passenger flights from June 1.
“At first, 30 percent of the frequencies or flights” of passengers may be reactivated and rigorous sanitary protection procedures will be applied to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, he explained.
“This should not give us a sense of false security,” but what is sought is the possibility of “resuming work, minimizing the risks” of contagion, added the minister.
Romo admitted that for the Government there is an “urgency” to move from the phase of mass isolation to physical distancing in order to resume productive activities.
According to the epidemiological map, 15 of the 221 municipalities in the country have decided to change to “yellow” and only one (Lago Agrio) to “green”, while the majority still remain “red”.
On his side, the Minister of Health, Juan Carlos Zevallos, in the same virtual press conference, reported that, according to official figures, Ecuador today exceeded the barrier of 3,000 deaths from coronavirus since last February 29, when the first patient was reported.
Zevallos indicated that there are 3,056 deaths from COVID-19, to which 1,892 “probable deceased” from this disease are added, according to the latest official report, which records 35,828 positive or sick cases of coronavirus.
The minister admitted that this has been an “especially complex week” due to the dismissal of 2,279 administrative health employees who had occasional contracts and who have already completed the year of service for which they were linked.
Zevallos said that this item corresponds to 2.8 percent of the total health personnel, but stressed that their removal has been a difficult decision made because the law establishes it and because of the effects of the economic crisis that is hitting the country.
Precisely, groups of employees in the health sector have protested the situation and have accused the Government of neglecting this sector in this time of pandemic.
Romo accepted that there are protests against the Government and said that he respects those types of demonstrations that have been announced by various union, student and indigenous unions in rejection of economic adjustments, labor laws and other fiscal measures adopted by the Government.
The Interior Minister said that the Executive respects the right of citizens to disagree, but that she hopes that the protests will not lead to an increase in cases of coronavirus.