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News > Chile

Vaccination To Help Revive Tourism in Chile's Easter Island

  • View of the monumental statues called

    View of the monumental statues called "Moai", Rapa Nui, Chile, 2021. | Photo: Twitter/ @RNZSunday

Published 12 February 2021 (3 hours 19 minutes ago)
Opinion

The Rapa Nui island is expected to receive up to 5,800 visitors a week once tourism resumes in the second half of the year.

Residents of Easter Island (Rapa Nui) in this week are receiving the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines made in China.

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This Chilean territory has seen zero coronavirus cases since March 2020, when local authorities barred the entry of tourists to curb the spread of the disease.

The move was effective, but potentially painful, cutting off the community's major source of income. Now residents hope the vaccine push will help kickstart the economy.

Rapa Nui will receive 1,200 doses a week until it reaches 16,000, with the aim of inoculating 8,000 islanders in the first half of the year.

"People feared the virus would reach the island, because the hospital is small, and it would have been devastating... The vaccine gives us security and hope that we will not have deaths to regret," said the Health Foundation for Rapa Nui President Ovahe Tepano.

When the pandemic started, with four COVID-19 cases and only three ventilators at the local hospital, authorities proposed a "sacred order" (tapu) to completely close off the island situated about 3,700 km away from continental Chile.

They also called for "umanga," an ancestral concept that evokes collaboration and mutual solidarity. It was a tough decision to make for an economy that relies 100 percent on tourism.

"We were aware the coming months were uncertain. We had to organize society into a kind of sustainability with the bare minimum," Rapa Nui Mayor Pedro Edmunds said, noting that 317 days have passed with no signs of COVID-19.

His city has rolled out a program to employ 800 people out of the 1,800 who were without work in park maintenance, repairing facades, and environmental care promotion.

These actions are part of a plan to beautify the island, which could receive up to 16 flights and 5,800 visitors a week once tourism resumes in the second half of the year.

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