April 11, 2020 / 1:50 AM / 3 months ago

Ecuador announces humanitarian account and social measures to address pandemic

QUITO (Reuters) - Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno announced on Friday the creation of a humanitarian assistance account that will be funded with contributions from companies and citizens to address the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

People gather to pray at the closed doors of a church amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), during Holy Week celebrations, in Guayaquil, Ecuador April 10, 2020. REUTERS/Vicente Gaibor del Pino

“The pandemic hit us at a critical moment, when we were trying to get ahead after a very tough economic crisis,” Moreno added in a televised speech. “It hit us without a cent in the state’s accounts.”

Ecuador reported more than 2,196 new infections in one day on Friday, raising the total number to 7,161. Some 297 have died and another 311 were likely killed by the virus, according to official data.

The government has said deaths could reach 3,500 due to the outbreak in the province of Guayas, where the epicenter of the country’s outbreak is located, which accounts for 70% of infections.

The humanitarian assistance account will be funded, in part, by a contribution of five percent of profits from companies that earned more than a million dollars. The money will serve to finance smaller companies that require capital.

The other funds will come from a progressive contribution based on workers’ monthly income for nine months. The contribution will be for those who earn more than $500 per month.

“So those who earn less, pay less and those who earn more, pay more. With their contribution, we will be able to protect almost two million poor families in Ecuador,” Moreno explained, indicating that the resources will be managed outside the government.

The fall in oil prices and the pandemic have created liquidity problems for the country, which is also facing a crisis in its oil sector due to the rupture of two pipelines.

Moreno added that he will send the National Assembly a package of reforms to avoid evictions due to delays in paying rent, health coverage in social security and the expansion of unemployment insurance.

He also announced the country would receive new multilateral financing to grant credit to companies that need liquidity under special conditions, without detailing the amounts.

Moreno reiterated his strategy to restructure external debt, which he said exceeds $65 billion dollars, and will include an agreement to reduce payments, without giving further details.

Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Writing by Sarah Kinosian; Editing by Alistair Bell

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