QUITO (Reuters) - Ecuador on Wednesday implemented a nighttime curfew and other mobility restrictions as a spike in coronavirus cases again overwhelms hospitals in the Andean country, which in 2020 experienced one of the region's worst COVID-19 outbreaks.
In 16 of the country's 24 provinces, only workers in the healthcare, food and other sectors deemed essential will be allowed to circulate over weekends and during evenings from Monday through Thursday, according to the decree signed by President Lenin Moreno.
The measures will take effect on Friday and last for 28 days.
The new restrictions come as tents hospitals are maintaining waitlists for a bed and setting up tents outdoor to attend to a surge in coronavirus patients, part of a resurgence in the virus across Latin America as several countries' vaccination programs have gotten off to slow starts.
Ecuador, which has reported 362,000 COVID-19 cases and 17,804 deaths, is currently vaccinating only the elderly, police, members of the military and teachers. Moreno has pledged to accelerate inoculation.
During weekdays, the decree will allow restaurants, malls gymnasiums and movie theaters to operate at a reduced 30 capacity.
The pandemic overwhelmed the public health system in Ecuador's largest city of Guayaquil last March and April, as authorities struggled to collect dead bodies and cemeteries ran out of space.
(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia in Quito; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Michael Perry)