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Residents of Easter Island vote 67% against returning tourists

The inhabitants of Easter Island, cut off from the world for more than a year and a half due to the coronavirus pandemic, voted 67% on Sunday October 24 against the reopening of the island to tourists.

The Chilean island of the South Pacific, 3,700 km from the coast of Chile, is known for its impressive megaliths of mysterious origin. It has some 10,000 inhabitants, 60% of whom are people of Polynesian culture and the Rapa Nui people, the indigenous name of the island.

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Eight cases of Covid on the island

The Rapa Nui had to answer “yes” or “no” to the question: “Do you want to open the island in January?” “. The “no” won with 649 votes, against 320 for the “yes” and three null votes, detailed on social networks the local community Ma’u Henua, which administers the Rapa Nui National Park. But abstention weighed heavily on the ballot. Only 972 people took part in the vote – less than 20% of the inhabitants called to the polls.

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The result of the vote is not binding and the final decision will rest with the health authorities of the region of Valparaiso, on which the island depends, or the Ministry of Health which has not yet said whether it intends to comply or not. at the consultation.

The inhabitants of the island have not seen a single tourist since March 2020 and the imposition of the state of emergency in Chile with health restrictions in the face of the coronavirus. The country has recorded more than 1.6 million cases and more than 36,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic. For its part, the island has so far recorded eight cases of Covid-19, no new cases since September 2020 and there have been no deaths during the pandemic, according to data from local authorities.

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73.1% of the population is vaccinated against Covid-19 on Easter Island but the medical center in Hanga Roa, the capital, does not have any intensive care unit. A single medical ambulance sent from the mainland a month ago can transport a patient to life threatened by Covid-19.

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“The island derives its income from the tourism industry. It is the source of the economy ”Salvador Atan, vice-president of the local community Ma’u Henua, who, like the local authorities, was in favor of reopening the island told AFP. “It’s very simple, we’ve been locked up for almost two years, income has fallen in such a way that they are barely enough to survive”, in turn assured another resident, Uri Erisa Tuki Teave, believing that tourism conditions the economic survival of the island.

The reconverted of the Covid: “Why waste my time for the privileged to travel to the other side of the world? ”

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But Hugo Atan, a civil servant who voted “no”, is not of the same opinion: ” I believe that [l’île] can live [sans s’ouvrir], we just need to reinvent and remember what our fathers and grandfathers did once, they survived [sans tourisme]. “

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