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Chile reopens borders to visitors ahead of summer tourism season

·2 min read

By Aislinn Laing

SANTIAGO, Sept 15 (Reuters) - Chile announced plans to reopen its borders to visitors on Wednesday as it seeks to restore its critical tourism industry ahead of the Southern Hemisphere summer following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Travelers will be required to show a negative PCR COVID-19 test taken up to 72 hours before entering Chile, make a legal declaration of their destination and origin, have medical travel insurance and show proof of vaccination, public health chief Paula Daza said.

All people arriving in the country, both residents and tourists, must undergo five days of quarantine at a hotel or private home, she added, where they will be checked on, asked to complete another PCR and complete a daily health report.

Daza warned visitors not to book their trip to Chile until their vaccination certificate was validated by the Chilean health ministry, which could take a month.

Visitors without vaccines - including children - will only be allowed to enter under strict criteria, such as for humanitarian reasons.

The announcement comes as life returns to normal in Chile following a steady drop-off in cases and amid one of the world's highest vaccination rates, with 73% of the population now inoculated against COVID-19 with either the Sinovac, AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech or Cansino vaccines, as well as 2.4 million people given a third dose.

Borders were closed to visitors in March 2020 when the pandemic first hit, and again in April 2021 when Chile experienced a fiercer, second wave of the virus.

Chile is currently reporting between 200 and 500 new cases a day, with a 1% test positivity rate on Tuesday. It has identified just over 1,000 cases of the more virulent Delta variant, the majority transmitted within the community rather than brought in by visitors, the health ministry said.

Jose Luis Uriarte, the tourism subsecretary, said foreign tourists were welcome provided they respected the strict self-care measures in Chile of wearing masks and social distancing.

"This is a very important step in the reactivation and recuperation of foreign tourism, which accounts for around 40% of our income from tourism," he said. (Reporting by Aislinn Laing; editing by Jonathan Oatis)