April 22, 2020 / 3:37 AM / 2 months ago

Ecuador aims to restart economy after coronavirus quarantine

QUITO, April 21 (Reuters) - Ecuador is readying a plan to reactivate its economy and authorize flights home for citizens stranded abroad, the government said on Tuesday, following a month of strict quarantine to curb the coronavirus pandemic.

With 520 deaths and 10,398 confirmed infections, the virus has devastated the economy of the oil-producing nation, while overwhelmed public health services in its outbreak epicentre of Guayaquil saw corpses left in homes or on streets for hours.

Now, as it seeks urgent external financing and renegotiation of external debt, Ecuador wants productive and commercial sectors to gradually resume work, following protocols to limit contagion and conserve capacity at public hospitals.

“It is an economic reopening plan that requires more discipline than the previous stage,” Minister Maria Paula Romo told reporters.

“Now we are going to have to organize ourselves to get out, any disorder in this next stage could provoke a spike in infections,” the minister added, without elaborating.

Despite the reopening plans, curbs on education, transport and large gatherings, among other measures, will continue during May, Romo added.

Ecuador plans to receive thousands more citizens on authorized flights, Romo said, in addition to the roughly 2,500 who have returned from overseas.

But they will have to complete a 14-day term of isolation in hotels or other government-designated spaces.

The pandemic cost Ecuador’s productive and commercial sectors about $4.7 billion in sales, production ministry data show.

The productive sector has cited lack of liquidity as its primary problem and has asked the government for resources to reactivate itself and avoid mass layoffs.

In addition to the virus tally, official data registered 902 deaths as probably caused by the respiratory disease.

(Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: open tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.)

Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Writing by Sarah Kinosian; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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