Machu Picchu July reopening ruled out over fears of virus spread

A general view of the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, Peru, on December 30, 2014. – Authorities announced on June 5, 2020 that health protocols will be implemented in order to reopen in July Peru’s most visited tourist site, which has been closed for three months due to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Cris BOURONCLE / AFP)

LIMA, Peru (AFP) — The ancient Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, a jewel of Peruvian tourism, will not reopen in July as originally scheduled due to concerns over the coronavirus, local media reported Sunday.

The Machu Picchu management group, UGM, made the decision based on reports from authorities in the Cusco region, where the citadel is located.

“It has been decided that it will not be opened on July 1,” Machu Picchu district mayor Darwin Baca, a UGM member, told reporters.

An official reopening date has not yet been set. Baca indicated that a series of health measures, such as testing, are still pending in the area.

Machu Picchu unions have since Monday protested the reopening, saying that allowing tourists in the region would cause a spike in infections.

Peruvian officials announced last week that the citadel would be allowed to reopen to a sharply reduced number of daily visitors: only 675 per day, one-quarter the usual number.

Members of a commission of authorities and experts led by the the Governor of Cusco, Jean Paul Benavente, visit the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu on June 12, 2020, assessing the new health and distancing protocols in order to reopen to the public on July 1. – According to Benavente, before the pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus Covid19, the Inca citadel had between 2,000 to 3,000 visitors a day, n high times they reached 5,000, now it will only receive 675 tourists daily. Benavente explained that the limit of visits is part of the health protocol, which includes the evaluation of social distancing, the use of masks, the restriction of certain areas. (Photo by Percy Hurtado / AFP)

Guides would lead tours of only seven visitors, and people would be required to wear masks.

The planned July reopening was linked to a lifting of national confinement measures in place since March 16, Cusco regional governor Paul Benavente said.

Airports in Peru remain closed, and many shops are shuttered. But despite some of Latin America’s earliest and most stringent measures, the country has logged the second-highest number of cases in the region, at 250,000, along with nearly 8,000 deaths.

© Agence France-Presse