Protest and local government action is stopping flights from landing at one of Ecuador's busiest airports.

The runway of Jose Joaquin de Olmedo Airport was blocked to air traffic after officials in Ecuador's largest city, Guayaquil, said they opposed flights arriving from Europe.

Trucks and other vehicles were used to stop an Iberian Airlines flight landing on a repatriation mission from Spain, according to Reuters reporting.

European Union member states are urging Ecuadorian airports to remain open to allow them to evacuate citizens, however there is a mixed response from on the ground.

Advertisement


Cynthia Viteri the mayor of Guayaquil came out in support of locking down the runway to prevent arrivals.

Speaking in support for the protesters on the 19th of March the mayor revealed she had tested positive for Covid-19, on March 19.

In spite of local support the Ministry of Transport and Public Work is at odds with Viteri, releasing a statement condemning the actions and asking for airports to be re-opened. The ministry confirmed that the Iberian plane which attempted to pick up passengers in Guayaquil to be repatriated to Spain was diverted to Quito, the Ecuadorian capital. The plane was able to uplift 170 passengers, and brought no travellers into the country.

Among those waiting for flights are a group of 63 Spanish health volunteers who have been unable to leave since the blockade on March 20.

"We are much needed in Spain right now as the system [there] is overrun," the group told Spanish media after being unable to fly out of the city.

Mayor Viteri spoke out in favour of blocking the airports in her city. Photo / Supplied, Facebook
Mayor Viteri spoke out in favour of blocking the airports in her city. Photo / Supplied, Facebook

The EU is asking for Ecuador to "provide guarantees of security in the use of the airports of Quito and Guayaquil for the arrival of empty flights … and the exit of European citizens," as it continues a repatriation campaign.

The country banned commercial passenger flights at the beginning of the week in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. There are currently 1052 active cases of the disease in Ecuador.

Last week in Punta Arenas, Chile, local residents came out to blockade passengers in the city's cruise terminal. On March 16 the country closed all ports to international cruise traffic. However residents felt this did not go far enough – blocking 300 tourists on sightseeing vessels along with the 2500 passengers aboard cruise ships MS Zaandam and MS Roald Amundsen.

Advertisement