Chile to reopen Easter Island for tourism for first time since outbreak of pandemic
Published: May 27, 2022 10:09 PM
A view of the ceremonial platform Ahu Tongariki on the Easter Island. Photo: AFP

A view of the ceremonial platform Ahu Tongariki on the Easter Island. Photo: 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.

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.