Covid closes Machu Picchu -- again

Lima (AFP) –


The Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, which had partially reopened after months of coronavirus closures, will shut again for two weeks amid a deadly second pandemic wave in Peru, the government said.

A decree published in the official gazette said all archaeological sites in 17 regions of Peru "will receive zero visits" from January 31 to February 14.

Sixteen million Peruvians will be in lockdown during these two weeks in an area covering a third of the country in a bid to beat back the viral resurgence.

The South American nation's health care system has been overwhelmed by the Covid-19 pandemic. It has only 500 intensive care beds for a population of 32 million.

Machu Picchu, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1983, reopened to visitors in November after having been shuttered for almost eight months.

Machu Picchu mayor Darwin Baca said Wednesday the new closure will be devastating for some 6,000 local residents directly employed by tourism.

"The economic impact on the entire district is strong, the measures are very restrictive," he told AFP, and urged the government to take "economic reactivation" measures.

The town of Machu Picchu has had no coronavirus deaths for weeks.

The nearby Cuzco region, however, has seen 550 deaths and 26,000 infections to date, with 18 new deaths in 24 hours, according to the health ministry.

The region and eight others are under curfew, with restrictions on social gatherings.

Peru, like most countries in South America and elsewhere, has battled a second wave of Covid-19 since the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Daily infections in the country have risen from 1,000 to more than 5,000, with deaths per day increasing from 40 on average to more than 100.