Peru reopens air and bus travel as GDP slumps

Lima (AFP) –


Peru reopened domestic air travel on Wednesday in a bid to reignite the economy as it announced a drop of 33 percent in GDP for May year-on-year.

Long queues of passengers formed from dawn at the Jorge Chavez airport in the capital Lima with 17 domestic flights operating during the day.

"We're opening together the Peruvian sky with our first flight from Lima to Cusco," Latin America's biggest airline LATAM said on Twitter.

Air travel had been suspended for four months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Cusco, the ancient capital of the Inca empire, is the nearest airport to Machu Picchu, the ruins of an Inca citadel that is Peru's most visited tourist site.

Authorities are hoping to re-open Machu Picchu, with a restricted number of visitors, on July 24.

The move comes with Peru revealing its economy shrank by 3.4 percent in the first quarter of 2020.

GDP slumped almost 33 percent in May compared to the same month in 2019, although that was a slight improvement on April's year-on-year figure of more than 40 percent, the national statistics institute said.

The first flight of the day, from Lima to the Amazonian city of Iquitos, left with an hour's delay.

Cross-country bus travel was also restarted.

All airplane and bus passengers must wear face masks and facial protectors, according to the government's biosecurity regulations.

Passengers must present an affidavit assuring that they are free of COVID-19 and have their temperature taken before boarding a flight.

They will not be able to fly if showing any COVID-19 symptoms.

Air passengers must also arrive three hours before their flights rather than the usual one hour for domestic travel.

Air and bus travel is now permitted in 18 of Peru's 25 regions. Airlines are allowed to use only 30 percent of their fleet.

Peru's external borders remain closed, though, with the government looking into the possibility of restarting foreign travel in August.

Peru has registered the second most coronavirus cases in Latin America with more tha 333,000, the the third most deaths at over 12,000.

The Central Bank says GDP will fall by 12.5 percent in 2020.