18:31 GMT01 December 2020
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    Peru’s greatest tourist attraction, the Incan citadel of Machu Picchu, reopened on Sunday after being closed for nearly eight months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as the number of cases in the South American country steadily decreases.

    Due to safety concerns, each day, only 675 tourists will be able to visit the 15th-century fortress located in the Eastern Cordillera of southern Peru, which is about 30% of the total number of daily visitors before the COVID-19 pandemic, AFP reported. An Incan ritual took place on 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],” Peruvian Foreign Trade and Tourism Minister Rocio Barrios announced in a Sunday speech, adding that opening Machu Picchu shows the world that “we Peruvians are resilient.”

    Despite the fact that the tourist attraction has reopened, visitors will still be expected to maintain social distancing.

    According to AFP, the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted the thousands of people in Peru whose income depends on the country’s tourism industry. 

    People in the Cusco region where the citadel is situated have been greatly affected in particular. Many stores, restaurants and other tourism-related businesses went bankrupt before a lockdown that lasted for more than 100 days was lifted in July.

    Taxi driver Eberth Hancco, who works at the airport in Cusco, the former capital of the Incan Empire, told AFP that his income has been greatly affected by COVID-19. “The situation has been very bad, because Cusco depends on tourism,” he told the outlet.

    Before the pandemic, there were around 80 hotels in the town of Ollantaytambo, which is also an Incan archaeological site in southern Peru.

    “At least half of them have gone bankrupt,” Joaquin Randall, head of the local hotel and restaurant association, told AFP.

    “The formal hotels that pay taxes have been able to access government aid,” he added, but informal establishments have not.

    Machu Picchu was declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 1983.

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