Easter Island welcomes back tourists post-pandemic
Chile's Easter Island, a popular Pacific Ocean tourist destination, officially reopened to the world Monday after more than two years of coronavirus closure. The first flight with tourists - many with bookings made before the pandemic - was due to touch down on Thursday, tourism official Veronica Kunze told reporters.
"We have to open the island, but we have to do it safely," she added. Arrivals must be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, and show a negative PCR test.
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.
The island's main source of revenue was domestic and international tourism before flights were grounded on March 16, 2020, following the first reported cases of coronavirus in Chile.
Easter Island used to receive some 160,000 tourists per year, arriving on two flights daily.
In the two years without tourists, islanders resorted to bartering and planting their own vegetable gardens, officials said.
The island has reported only two coronavirus cases, with no hospitalizations or deaths.
The reopening will be gradual, with some two flights a week at first, said Kunze.
The local hospital had been reinforced, she added, and now boasts an isolation unit as well as a PCR laboratory. - AFP