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.