Immunized Galapagos advances to reactivation

June 06, 2021 00:00
Alexander Garcia

At the Puerto Ayora dock, located on Santa Cruz Island, tourists from navigable promenades arrive and set sail. Photo: Courtesy Joshua Vela

The return of international tourists to the streets of the towns of the Galapagos generates enthusiasm in the tourism sector, a sector upon which up to 90% of the island population depends, either directly or indirectly.

The advance of immunization is unprecedented for the country. All the population over 18 years of the Galapagos began this month at the least one dose against Covid-19 of the Pfizer vaccine, according to the Ministry of Public Health (MSP).

Since last March, almost 7,000 monthly tourists have entered the islands , 69.07% more than last January. 30% of them are foreigners, according to the Galapagos Chamber of Tourism. The figure is still far from the 25,000 monthly visitors the islands received before the pandemic.

The Minister of Tourism, Niels Olsen, announced last week that June is the month of economic reactivation for this province. And this implies that, in the coming days, the mandatory requirement to present a negative PCR test will be eliminated for passengers who already have a vaccination certificate and want to travel to the islands.

Andrés Ordóñez, director of the Galapagos Chamber of Tourism, indicates that a provincial resolution is pending to modify the protocols so that the archipelago can be entered either with the vaccination card or with a negative PCR test (carried out no more than three days before arrival).

“The new entrance measures will contribute to economic reactivation, but due to this greater openness, it is necessary to strengthen the health system and have periodic monitoring with PCR tests for residents,” says Ordóñez.

It indicates that for the summer in the northern hemisphere (between June and August), 20% more monthly visits are possible.

Andrew Balfour, general manager of the Pikaia hotel , argues that the advance of immunization in the archipelago strengthens confidence in the destination. However, he said policies and incentives are required for the entire sector to get going.

He mentions, for example, the payment of permits, operating patents or insurance, which many operators still cannot afford after being hit by more than a year of crisis.

The Pikaia Lodge hotel in Santa Cruz was closed from March 17 to December of last year. In the last two months it has recovered only 30% of its occupation. “The international public is eager to travel, but the concern is that policies will change and that they will not be able to return to their countries in the expected time,” says Balfour.

Additional considerations for why the islands are suitable for post-pandemic tourism : outdoor activities, contact with nature and activities in small groups.

In the last week alone there have been three new cases of infection by coronavirus in the islands. The government of former President Lenín Moreno assured – at the time – to leave Galapagos immunized with the application of 40,000 doses of the pharmaceutical company Pfizer destined for the insular region.

The island province has a population of 33,768 inhabitants; Of these, 20,815 people over 18 years of age received the first dose of the vaccine as of May 28, which is equivalent to the entire adult population, according to the Ministry of Health.

The number of immunized with the second dose as of the end of last month reached 17,630 people, representing 87.62% of the adult population of the province.

Ángel Yánez, mayor of Santa Cruz, says that next week it is expected to complete the entire second dose scheme for people over 18 years of age, at the provincial level. “We have herd immunity,” he said.

The arrival of a shipment of new doses is expected for Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal, Isabela and Floreana, to complete the second doses of 3,185 people over the age of 18 years. There is also progress with the 16 and 17 year old population, 41% have received the first injection, explains Yánez; 653 adolescents remain to be covered.

Read the original coverage from El Comercio at

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