The Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, the crown jewel of Peru’s tourist sites, reopened Sunday with an ancient ritual after a nearly eight-month lockdown due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
For safety reasons, however, only 675 tourists will be able to access the site per day, just 30 percent of the number of visitors pre-pandemic.
Under a fine drizzle and multicolored lights, an Inca ritual was held Sunday evening to thank the gods for the citadel’s reopening.
“Today, Machu Picchu opens. It opens with (health and safety) protocols, it opens to say that we are reactivating ourselves but with responsibility and great prudence, because we see everything happening in the world” with the pandemic, Foreign Trade and Tourism Minister Rocio Barrios said in a speech.
The first train of tourists, along with an AFP team, had arrived Sunday morning at Machu Picchu Pueblo, the village closest to the citadel, after a 90-minute journey along the Urubamba River from the ancient Inca village of Ollantaytambo.
Opening Machu Picchu to the world shows “that we Peruvians are resilient,” Barrios told AFP.
The number of coronavirus cases has been steadily decreasing in Peru, and tourists will be expected to maintain social distancing.
The coronavirus lockdown has been a body blow to the tens of thousands of people who make their living from the country’s tourism industry, especially those in the mountainous Cusco region where the stone citadel is located.
Scores of hotels, restaurants and tourism-related businesses throughout the region went bankrupt by the time a strict mandatory virus lockdown that lasted more than 100 days was lifted in July.
Taxi driver Eberth Hancco, who works at the airport of the city of Cusco, the former capital of the Inca empire, was among those affected.
“The situation has been very bad, because Cusco depends on tourism,” he told AFP.
Before the pandemic there were 80 hotels of various types in Ollantaytambo, a town with an imposing Inca stone fortress located at the end of the road from Cusco to Machu Picchu.
“At least half of them have gone bankrupt,” said Joaquin Randall, head of the local hotel and restaurant association.
“The formal hotels that pay taxes have been able to access government aid,” he told AFP – but not so for the myriad of informal hotels in the area, many of them geared towards backpackers.
Machu Picchu, which means old mountain in Quechua, is the most enduring legacy of the Inca empire that ruled a large swathe of western South America for 100 years before the Spanish conquest in the 16th century.
The ruins of the Inca settlement, abandoned and overgrown by vegetation, were rediscovered in 1911 by the American explorer Hiram Bingham. In 1983, UNESCO declared Machu Picchu a World Heritage Site.
GOP senator knows Trump lost but thinks it would be ‘political suicide’ to admit it: report
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) is still spouting conspiracy theories about the election being "stolen" from President Donald Trump -- but according to one former Wisconsin Republican official, Johnson understands that Trump lost.
Mark Becker, the former Chairman of the Brown County Republican Party, writes at The Bulwark that he had a conversation with Johnson after the election in which the senator acknowledged Trump's defeat.
However, Johnson said that he was loath to admit it publicly because of the strong support the president had received from Wisconsin GOP voters, despite the fact that the president narrowly lost the state this year.
‘Dumbest senator ever’: Morning Joe mocks Republican Ron Johnson
MSNBC's Joe Scarborough mocked Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) for demanding proof of something that doesn't exist.
Attorney General William Barr announced the Department of Justice had found no evidence of voter fraud, as President Donald Trump has claimed, and Johnson called on Barr to "show everybody" the proof that the election had not been stolen.
"The man Guinness Book of World Records has called the dumbest senator to ever be sworn in in this constitutional republic," Scarborough said. "I'm speaking, of course, of Ron Johnson, who said that William Barr must show his evidence that he has no evidence."
Crime gangs threaten COVID-19 vaccine campaigns, Interpol warns
Interpol on Wednesday warned authorities worldwide of the threat from organized crime groups during upcoming Covid-19 vaccination campaigns, including fake vaccines and the theft of supplies.
Distribution of three new coronavirus vaccines is set to begin soon and many people will be desperate to protect themselves as quickly as possible, offering ready targets for criminals.
"As governments are preparing to roll out vaccines, criminal organizations are planning to infiltrate or disrupt supply chains," Juergen Stock, head of the global policing agency based in Lyon, France, said in a statement