21 May 2022, 13:38

Chile to reopen Easter Island for tourism for first time since pandemic

SANTIAGO, May 21, 2022 (BSS/AFP) - Popular Pacific Ocean tourist destination
Easter Island will reopen to the world on August 1, after more than two years
closed due to the pandemic, the Chilean government said on Friday.

The island, located 3,500 kilometers west of the coast of Chile, is world-
famous for its "moais," huge stone statues in human form partially buried in
the earth.

"It has been agreed that the opening of Rapa Nui (Easter Island) would take
place on Monday, August 1, 2022," said a statement from the ministry of
economy, development and tourism.

The original reopening date was February, but that plan did not materialize
under the government of former president Sebastian Pinera.

Authorities drew up a new plan to reopen the island after leftist President
Gabriel Boric took office in March.

The island's main source of revenue was domestic and international tourism
before flights to and from it were grounded on March 16, 2020, following the
first reported cases of coronavirus in the country.

Easter Island currently has only one weekly flight, operated by the Latam
airline. From August 1, up to three flights per week will be operated by
Latam to transport tourists, the ministry said.

The Chilean government has set a precondition that the local Covid-19
vaccination rate must reach 80 percent in order for tourism to reopen. The
current vaccination rate among the island's 10,000 inhabitants is
approximately 73 percent.

The medical center of its only city, Hanga Roa, does not have an intensive
care unit, but is equipped with respirators. An emergency flight to the
mainland takes about five-and-a-half hours.

The island has had only a handful of cases of coronavirus. No
hospitalizations or deaths have resulted from the outbreak, according to
local authorities.

In October, the indigenous population of Easter Island held a referendum on
whether tourism to the UNESCO world heritage site should be resumed.

The result, which was non-binding, showed more than 67 percent of those who
voted were against the move.

Chile has recorded 3.6 million cases and more than 57,000 deaths due to the
coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the World
Health Organization.