After the declaration of unconstitutionality of the state of exception, which was reported on Saturday, January 2, 2021 by the Constitutional Court, the National COE issued new resolutions on Sunday, January 3, aimed at controlling the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
In the resolution of January 3, 2021, the National COE referred to what will happen in/at schools, colleges, higher education, workplaces andthe borders, and also outlined the need for PCR tests to enter the country, and more.
These are the statements from the National COE as of Sunday, January 3, 2021.
Classes in schools and colleges
According to the new resolution, “in person classes will be suspended and classes will continue under the virtual/remote mode, complying with the Educational Plan COVID-19.”
In addition, the COE indicated that the authorization “of pilot plans carried out by the National COE will be maintained, new institutions and new modalities may be incorporated into this pilot.”
The COE pointed out that returning to classes will be optional and that educational institutions must “also guarantee that they have virtual education modalities.”
The return in the framework of the pilot plan for face-to-face classes is maintained thru January 18th, but this will depend “on the evolution of the country’s pandemic,” said the COE.
Teachers will return to the educational units as of January 18, 2021, “under the alternation guidelines issued by the National Educational Authority and will depend on the evolution of the pandemic in the country, meanwhile, they must develop their activities under the modality of teleworking.”
The National COE pointed out that “the development and implementation of pilot plans for the progressive return of activities will be allowed, for this purpose it must be coordinated with the Council of Higher Education and Higher Education Institutions, all within the framework of the responsible autonomy of universities and polytechnic schools.”
Regarding the authorizations for the progressive return to face-to-face classes, the COE said that these will begin on January 18th“and will depend on the evolution of the pandemic in the country.”
In its resolution of January 3, the COE ratified the provision issued in the resolution of December 22, 2020, so that telework will be maintained until January 18th,“in accordance with institutional needs, in those activities whose nature allows it.”
The national COE noted that “land borders and maritime ports remain closed according to the Resolution of the Sectorial Security Cabinet. ”The resolution does say however that the borders will remain open at “the National or Binational Centers of Attention on the Rumichaca Border with Colombia and Huaquillas with Peru, for foreign trade activities and entry of national citizens and Resident foreigners as required.”
PCR test requirement to enter the country
The National COE reported that “the Ministry of Health, within the scope of its powers, will issue the regulations that control the entry of people into the country, through any of the points entry (air, land or sea).”
Public shows, bars, discotheques, entertainment centers and tolerance centers
The resolution of the National COE states that “No General Police Administration at the national level will grant permits for “the holding of public shows.” It was reported that “if there is a change in this provision, it will be announced in due course.”
Regarding bars, discotheques, entertainment centers and tolerance centers, the National COE pointed out that “the definition of openings corresponds to the GAD guide lines previously developed by the Cantonal COE health organizations.”
Regarding the control of these spaces, the COE recommended “to begin the opening process under capacity guidelines established in Interministerial Agreement No. 00010 of September 18, 2020, signed by the Ministries of Government, Health and Tourism.” These control activities are coordinated between municipal entities, municipalities and police stations at the national level.
To the Association of Municipalities of Ecuador, the National COE recommended implementation of control measures at the points of greatest trade activity, the restriction in places that lead to crowds, measures of social distancing on beaches and the control of the consumption of alcoholic beverages in public spaces.
The National COE pointed out that “the biosecurity provisions issued in the protocols authorized by the National COE” are maintained in the country, and the application of them was also recommended to the public.
What the Court said
All of these changes come about because the Constitutional Court of Ecuador declared the state of emergency—in force in the country since the end of December—unconstitutional. The Court’s ruling was issued on December 27, 2020 but was only released on January 2, 2021.
On December 21, 2020, Ecuador President Lenin Moreno, had decreed a state of exception (for the third time in the year), that was to last a month—which included a six-hour curfew—to contain the “serious increase” in COVID-19 cases caused, according to him, by the crowds of December.
In his message this Sunday, Moreno explained that the Intensive Care Units (ICU) in the large cities of the country are near the limit of their capacity and he anticipated a rebound in cases.
“We anticipate that in January—even with the tireless and effective work of the last two weeks to slow down the crowds—there will be a natural consequence of an increase in infections. We have, however, a contingency plan ready in case this happens.’
Moreno called on the cantonal Emergency Operations Committees (COE) to now act in line with the warnings of the National COE, and to take all the necessary actions to avoid crowds. Moreno also called on citizens to act responsibly.
In its ruling, the Constitutional Court said that the decree on the “State of Exception due to public calamity,” in the face of Christmas crowds and the possible circulation of a variant of SARS-CoV-2 that emerged in the United Kingdom, “did not conform to constitutional norms.”
It asserted that states of exception are applied when the situation that causes them cannot be resolved in an ordinary way and that, therefore, measures of indefinite duration are required.
For this reason, the Court noted that “a plan designed to be temporary and exceptional, cannot be perpetuated while the pandemic and its consequences lasts.”
In the ruling, the Court reiterated that it is aware of the seriousness of the pandemic and its enormous impact on the rights to life and health, among others. However, to constitute a public calamity, the events in which the state of exception is justified must not only be serious but also unpredictable and untimely.
The Court added that after more than nine months of pandemic in Ecuador and in the world, such a situation ceased to be unforeseen or supervening. Consequently, it concluded that the facts constituting the declaration did not constitute the cause of public calamity invoked in the decree.
Additionally, it said that it had previously warned that “it will not admit a new declaration on the same facts that have formed public calamity on two previous occasions with their respective renewals.” And when analyzing this new declaration, the Court verified that, in general, the decree is based on the same facts as the two previous occasions. Consequently, it determined that it cannot admit a new declaration based on the same facts.
On Sunday, President Moreno, indicated that the government would abide by the ruling. However, he said that they will continue to apply the measures that are within their reach, “because they are derived from technical and statistical analyzes of the real situation and have a single objective: to save lives.”
The President also mentioned that Ecuador has an agreement with Pfizer / BioNTechto buy 2 million doses of their vaccine against COVID-19—the first 50,000 doses will arrive in January and the rest is anticipated to arrive in March. Moreno added that talks have started with the pharmaceutical company to purchase another 2 million additional doses.