After 65 days of confinement, Guayaquil, the Ecuadorian city most affected by COVID-19, partially filled its streets again on the first day of de-escalation, after changing from red to yellow in the epidemiological traffic light that is being implemented nationwide. .
Very cautiously, but pushed by the need to work, hundreds of people arrived at the Municipal Palace from 8:00 in the morning to pay the rent for their shops, especially those that have stalls in the different markets of the city.
Many of them had three and four months to pay and the need to reopen after two months of complete stoppage has pushed them to cancel debts to reactivate their businesses as soon as possible.
Guayaquil, the “Ecuadorian Wuhan” and which accumulated half of the infections nationwide in the second half of March and April, began the reactivation under the watchful eye of its mayor, Cynthia Viteri, who visited the windows of the Cabildo to verify the use of biosecurity measures that have allowed the change of traffic lights.
Measures approved by the City Council two weeks ago and endorsed by the National Committee for Emergency Operations (COE), before giving the green light to the reopening of businesses.
The “yellow” light allows the reactivation of hitherto prohibited businesses, that cars leave twice a week (instead of once), and that the curfew begins at 9:00 pm instead of 2:00 pm.
Also public transport, vital for the reactivation, with 30% capacity, and that public and private companies work with up to 50% of their staff.
The lines, with the distance prescribed by the authorities marked with dots on the ground, were also visible on Wednesday outside the banks and stores selling household appliances, whose clients were seeking to pay off the debts of their loans granted in previous months.
Maribel Salazar waited more than two hours outside a local in the north of the city to zero out on the installments she had past due for the purchase of a washing machine.
“I was already a bit desperate because I don’t want interest to go up. There are many others like me who are in the same situation,” she said.
Mariana Sotomayor was also in line. She rents a stall in one of the markets in the south of the city and intended to ask the Municipality for an extension or a deferral of the debt she had.
“Sales have been low, we want to work and pay, but we need support to start this new stage,” he said.
Viteri has arranged that, to avoid crowds, especially in public transport, the business starts its operations at 10:00, while public employees will start working at 10:30.
The construction sector, by contrast, will do so at 7:00.
“Trade in Guayaquil begins at 10:00. Complying with the rules must be everyone’s joint responsibility to save lives, work and eat. Nothing will ever be the same again, so we have to learn to live,” said Viteri, who was infected by the coronavirus.
Guayaquil, which experienced dantesque images with corpses abandoned in its streets in April, reaches the de-escalation with 9,291 infected with coronaviruses according to the results of PCR tests – it would be necessary to add those of the rapid tests – and 1,681 deaths among confirmed and probable.
They are joined by around 8,000 more people, according to municipal figures, who died during the pandemic for reasons unknown until now and which do not appear in the statistics of the Ministry of Health but do appear in the Civil Registry.
During its highest peak of infections, between the second half of March and the first of April, the city experienced the collapse of its sanitary and funeral systems.
Just fifteen days ago, its mayor pointed out that, based on a study carried out, they had evaluated that 32.7% of Guayaquil residents (half a million people) had been contaminated, of which 18% still had the active virus.
OF THE FIRST TO REACTIVATE
And even so, Guayaquil is one of the first cities to jump into the revival -Quito, for example, refuses to do so because it says that the worst of the storm has not yet passed-, and the fourth canton that does so in the province of Guayas.
“We already needed to work so we applaud the mayor’s decision to change color, but we want to open before (10 am) to have more opportunity to sell,” said Julio Arévalo, who has a cell phone parts business.
The merchant told Efe that he is still afraid of contagion, but that he is more afraid of the hunger that his children may suffer.
Most of the vendors came early to disinfect their premises and be able to attend without any problem.
Vehicle traffic also increased and traffic was recorded during several rush hours in several central and northern sectors.
In the exteriors of the stations of the metrovía also lines formed, since municipal officials settled in the stops to control the capacity of passengers.
According to figures from the cantonal COE, only 40% of people used their private car to leave the city on this first day back to “the new normal”.
There was also a great movement in health dispensaries, shopping malls, markets and restaurant areas, where the owners of the premises sought to attract customers with promotions and discounts that will be valid for a month.