Quito emerges from lockdown into a modified quarantine

A not-so-empty street in Tumbaco, Ecuador, given the strict measures in place. (Aileen Cevallos/YJI)

QUITO – In these early days of June, Quito has begun to open up.

Ecuador registered its first case of covid-19 on February 29 when a woman from Spain came back to her home in Guayaquil. The virus spread quickly, as it did in so many places in the world.

With the country already facing a difficult economic situation caused by gigantic debts to other nations and setbacks due to riots in October 2019, the pandemic hit Ecuador incredibly hard.

According to the World Health Organization, until the first of June, there were 39,098 confirmed cases of covid-19 here. But as a country that does not have enough testing – and the testing is not equally distributed among the economic classes – only the number of deaths can give a clear view of the situation.

In their June 1 update, the World Health Organization said there were 3,358 deaths due to covid-19 in Ecuador.

Not a single day has gone by without new cases or deaths.

Undoubtedly, another big issue is poverty and hunger spreading rapidly across the population.

Exports of oil, bananas and roses make up much of Ecuador’s income. But the pandemic has hurt those businesses and many people are out of work. Public workers took a significant pay cut, too.

In local news reports, doctors have said the hospitals are at their limit and there are simply no more supplies to take care of all the patients.

Despite that, the government has decided Quito, Ecuador’s capital city, should enter a new phase of social distancing.

People, as everywhere in the world, are desperate to go back to normal life. One might argue the number of infections has not decreased significantly for a change to be justifiable.

While that is true, the government is faced with a difficult choice because people are getting poorer and many are, simply put, hungry.

On a national public health map, regions within Ecuador are color-coded to differentiate what regulations are in place. Similar to a traffic light, every place was marked either red, yellow, or green. Places with the strictest measures are red, areas that are beginning to open up are yellow and the places with the fewest restrictions are green.

The government stressed that in any phase of social distancing, people have to wear a mask and keep a 1.5-meter distance from everyone.

Masks are required in Ecuador, even inside a car. (Aileen Cevallos/YJI)

During the red phase, on-site work was completely suspended. Curfew was in place every day between 6 p.m. and 5 a.m. Depending on the license plate number, each car had only two days a week to be on public streets. Travel between provinces was prohibited.

On the first of June, Quito entered the yellow phase. It is far away from normal, but some measures have gotten less strict.

Curfew now starts at 9 p.m. Cars can drive around on three days a week, with a total prohibition on Sundays. Urban transport is working again, although it can only use up to 50 percent of its capacity. Restaurants can open up with 30 percent of capacity.

Although offices can have half of their staff working on-site, the government recommends working at home. Additionally, there are strict biosecurity protocols for businesses.

With many people not sticking to the rules during the red phase, it is unclear whether people will be taking all of the necessary precautions to stop the virus from spreading once Quito enters a new stage.

Aileen Cevallos is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

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