Galapagos reopens tourist sites after virus lockdown

Quito (AFP)


The Galapagos Islands on Monday reopened its tourist sites and marine reserve, which had been closed since March due to the coronavirus pandemic, Ecuadorian Environment Minister Paulo Proano said.

"Today, under due biosecurity protocols, we are reopening the @parquegalapagos visit sites to contribute to the revitalization of the local economy," Proano wrote on his Twitter account.

The environment ministry said that visitors must wear masks and use disinfectant gel, adding that "in the case of recreational sites near populated ports, the maximum stay will be three hours."

The Galapagos, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, partially opened its beaches for residents in May, when Ecuador began to ease its coronavirus lockdown.

Only six beaches of the Galapagos National Park were allowed to open for three-hour stretches.

The archipelago, with about 30,000 inhabitants, has recorded just 100 COVID-19 infections.

Mainland Ecuador has recorded 68,500 cases and more than 5,000 deaths, with authorities reporting 3,277 other deaths were likely from the virus as well.

The Galapagos Islands, located in the Pacific Ocean about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) off the coast of Ecuador, were made famous by 19th-century English naturalist Charles Darwin's studies of their breathtaking biodiversity.

The archipelago received 271,200 visitors in 2019.