Galapagos is concerned about COVID-19 figures and calls for priority in vaccination phase
25 January 2021
The consequences of the Christmas, New Year and current political campaigns are felt strongly in the Galapagos Islands. COVID-19 contagions are on the rise.
According to government figures, as of Saturday the 23rd, 1,200 cases of the virus had been confirmed in the archipelago. The increase has been progressing since December 2020.
This has led local and national authorities to strengthen controls on gatherings and to call for the archipelago to be considered a “priority” within Ecuador’s virus vaccination campaign.
This call is supported by locals, taxi drivers, tour guides, hotel and restaurant owners, among others, who have been impacted economically by the lack of tourism due to the pandemic.
Galapagos Governing Council President Norman Wray says the health system has been strengthened with 27 rural doctors to treat and monitor the infected.
There are also two laboratories for conducting free PCR tests for residents.
In addition, antigenic testing and capacity control are underway at gathering sites.
Wray adds that the archipelago has twelve beds in intensive care units (ICU) divided into two hospitals and a center for isolation. 80% of these are currently occupied. While there is a low mortality rate, the increase in cases is causing worries on the islands.
Wray believes it is necessary for the government to prioritize vaccines for the archipelago. The islands have a population of approximately 30,000, and 60,000 doses would be needed.
“For an island system that relies heavily on tourist activity, it is vital that immunization is done as quickly as possible. We have asked the Government to make the islands a priority,” Wray says.
This position is consistent with Angel Yánez, mayor of Santa Cruz. He says his biggest concern is that the increase in cases will saturate ICU beds and mortality increases.
It states that restrictions have lifted, especially in the last two weeks that are “crucial” in reducing contagion on the island. In fact, within the framework of the recent Third Fisheries Summit held in Puerto Ayora, capacity, fumigation and sanitization controls were observed.
“We need to vaccinate our population to send a message to the world, say that GGalapagos is free of COVID-19 and that tourists can return and improve our economy,” says Yánez.
Víctor Rueda sells tour packages to the islands near Santa Cruz. He says that the economic situation is very complex, that all his savings have already been spent and that income is not enough for family subsistence.
Before the pandemic, he says, he got up to $4,000 a month, but now this figure doesn’t even reach $500.
Rueda recognizes that the number of tourists has increased slightly, especially national [tourists]. He claims that in December there was “some recovery”, but that with the return of strict restrictions, sales fell again.
His call for vaccines on the islands is not only to the government but also to the NGOs who for “years have worked in the Galapagos and have had significant return, but we have heard nothing.”
Another pressing problem, according to Yánez, are citizens who have tried to enter the archipelago with false or adulterated PCR tests (a mandatory requirement to enter the islands).
“There are many people who have tried to pass the checks by falsifying test certificates and I imagine they do so for the cost, but they must understand that the test is necessary to avoid a catastrophe on the islands,” says the mayor on Santa Cruz.
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