Amidst growing fear of the COVID-19 outbreak from around the world, the European Union has asked Ecuador to keep its airports open on Thursday following an incident where Ecuadorean officials blocked the runway of a Guayaquil airport to prevent an arriving flight from landing.
The Iberia flight was arriving at the José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport from Spain with the intended purpose of evacuating 190 travelers from the South American nation. The plane was carrying only crew members at the time.
The mayor of Guayaquil, Cynthia Viteri, made a statement on Wednesday via Facebook in support of the officials, who placed a number of trucks in the path of flight in order to prevent the aircraft from landing. Viteri claimed that the decision was meant to “defend the city of Guayaquil.”
Guayaquil currently has the country’s largest concentration of coronavirus cases.
Viteri later confirmed that she tested positive for the coronavirus the following day.
However, Ecuador’s Ministry of Transport and Public Works disagreed with Viteri’s stance in a statement sharing the organization’s disapproval over the mayor’s actions.
According to the department, the plane was not able to return the original 190 travelers back to Spain. Instead, the crew was forced to land at an airport in the capital of Quito, where it successfully returned 170 back to Spain.
According to FOX News, the European Union has requested that Ecuador “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.”
Ecuador, however, earlier banned incoming passenger flights to prevent more infected passengers from entering the country. As of Thursday, Ecuador has confirmed 260 cases and four deaths as a result of the coronavirus.