SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Easter Island, one of Chile’s biggest tourist attractions, will reopen to visitors starting Aug. 1 after access was restricted at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Chile’s government said on Friday.
Easter Island, over 2,000 miles (3,219 km) from the coast of Chile, has over a thousand stone statues, giant heads that were carved centuries ago by the island’s inhabitants, which have brought it fame and UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
“As of August 1, an increase in flights (two or three weekly flights, according to the epidemiological situation) and the opening of tourism, in conditions which will be communicated in a timely manner, will be allowed,” the economy ministry said in a statement.
The government said it will improve health infrastructure to handle eventual coronavirus cases in the remote island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean known for its stone Moai statues. The government also plans subsidies to help small businesses that have been impacted by the pandemic.
Residents of the island protested the presence of tourists when the pandemic started in March 2020, even taking over the airport to stop flights from the mainland.
To reopen the island, the government has started an official dialogue to “find a solution to the territorial conflict that has existed for over 50 years” between the local community and the state, it said in the statement
To start the dialogue, the government agreed to implement reparation and historical recognition measures while residents agreed to stop occupying the airport.
(Reporting by Fabian Cambero and Alexander Villegas in Santiago; Editing by Matthew Lewis)