Machu Picchu to reopen at 50% capacity, but no date set

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Machu Picchu to reopen at 50% capacity, but no date set
A government inspector takes a selfie on June 15, 2020 in the empty Machu Picchu, the 15th century Inca citadel located at 2,430 metres in the Andes mountain range, 80 km from Cusco in southern Peru, which has been closed to tourism since March 16, 2020 due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Peru, considered as one of America's and the world's leading tourism destinations, closed down its borders on March 16, 2020 seeking to curve the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19. The halt of the tourism industry caused many to loose their jobs and has led to the slow deterioration of some of the well known tourist sites. Percy HURTADO / AFP.

LIMA (AFP).- Peru's iconic tourist attraction Machu Picchu will reopen at half capacity following a coronavirus-forced closure, the Peruvian government said on Tuesday, although it didn't set a date.

"Admission to Machu Picchu will be 2,244 visitors a day," the government said in the official gazette. That's half the number of tourists usually allowed in to the ancient Inca citadel in the high season.

The new limit has been suggested by international experts in a bid to avoid the gradual deterioration of the crown jewel of Peruvian tourism, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983.

The new limited capacity has nothing to do with the coronavirus, though, and is part of measures the culture ministry was planning on taking anyway. The implementation was delayed by the country's virus lockdown.

Before the pandemic struck, Machu Picchu used to welcome between 2,000 and 3,000 visitors a day, with peaks of 5,000 in the high season.

The pandemic has caused a collapse of Peru's tourism industry. In the city of Cusco, the ancient Incan capital 70 kilometers (42 miles) from Machu Picchu, tourism employs 100,000 people.

Machu Picchu, which opened to tourists in 1948, was due to reopen on July 1 at a limited capacity of just 675 visitors a day with social distancing measures -- but that plan was abandoned over fears it could contribute to infections spreading in neighboring towns.

Peru's borders have been closed for almost four months as the country battles the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed almost 11,000 people and infected more than 300,000.

It is the third worst affected country in Latin America for deaths and second worst hit in terms of cases.

The government stepped up security at Machu Picchu, which last closed to visitors in 2010 after a flood damaged the access railway, during the lockdown to prevent thefts of archeological treasures.

The Peruvian tourism industry has suffered losses totaling $3.3 billion this year, according to Prime Minister Vicente Zeballos.

© Agence France-Presse

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