CNH Tours - Cultural and Natural Heritage Tours Galapagos
Monday January 25, 2021
PCR Testing Facilities in Galapagos? An Idea for Now
The recent decision on the part of the government of the USA to require negative PCR test or negative antigen tests taken no more than 3 days prior to entry into the USA, even for US citizens, is worrying the tourism sector in Galapagos (the Canadian government imposed a similar requirement 2 weeks ago). While numbers were still only a fraction of what they had been pre-pandemic, they were starting to grow, giving hope to the beleagured tourism sector.
Currently, there are no testing facilities in Galapagos beyond those in the hospitals on Santa Cruz and San Cristobal Isalnds - and these are available only to people showing symptoms. Visitors will need to get tested on the continent, as they make their way back home. As most tests require a minumum 24 hour turnaround, this new requirement will force people to spend at least 2 extra nights on the mainland before getting their results. Some higher end ships are working on having their guests tested on-board, 2 days prior to their flight back to the USA/Canada. This calls for accredited technicians from the mainland to fly to Galapagos, board the ship on it's penultimate cruise day, test the passengers, and fly back to the continent to process the samples. It's a logistical challenge in many respects - but shows how important this is to the tourism sector.
The Galapagos governing council is looking at ways to make testing available more broadly on the islands - facilitating things for visitors from the USA and Canada. The article below appeared in El Universo today, 25 January:
Doubts in Galapagos due to COVID-19 regulations in the US, which could affect tourism
The decision of the newly elected President of the United States, Joe Biden, to require negative PCR tests to all people who enter that country is a cause for concern in Galapagos, since this could cause tourists to suspend their trips to the archipelago.
Norman Wray, president of the Galápagos Government Council, considers it important to establish a private laboratory in the archipelago that charges a "reasonable" price for PCR tests to tourists who need to return to the United States, since citizens of that country occupy an important segment of the visitor numbers to the islands.
"There are tourists who, faced with the decision to require PCR testing and the lack of a facility in the islands that can provide the service, will decide not to come. We are talking with the Ministry of Health and the private sector to find out how to implement a service of these characteristics, "says Wray.
The visitor curve to Galapagos has been upward in recent months. In September 2020, the arrival of 1,400 tourists was registered, last December this figure rose to 6,800, but this "is very far from the number of tourists that came before the pandemic." (Ed: December 2019 tourist arrivals were in the 25,000 range – during the pandemic, most visitors are Ecuadorian nationals who spend more modestly than foreign visitors).
To reactivate the economy, according to Wray, they have promoted initiatives, with funds from the Governing Council, where conservation "converges" with the hiring of local labor, such as the project for the control of invasive species.
"We are handling the concept of green reactivation, but we also want to get international cooperation involved (...). We have worked with the United Nations to pay people and clean up the coast. We have worked on the scientific monitoring of the visitor sites" he says.