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Venezuela plans November reopening for tourism

Venezuela will reopen its tourist attractions “gradually” starting in December after registering a “sustained trend” of decreasing Covid-19 infections in the country, President Nicolás Maduro announced Wednesday.

The socialist president announced in a televised broadcast that the government had ordered to “gradually reopen tourist areas from December 1 through a strict biosafety protocol in order to stimulate the tourism sector at the end of 2020 and celebrating the Christmas season.”

The measure, continued the president, was authorized due to the “sustained trend” of decreasing cases of the coronavirus in the country of 30 million inhabitants. Official tallies cite 85,000 total infections and 714 deaths.

Organizations such as Human Rights Watch, however, question the official balance sheets as not very credible.

“It is news that we receive with joy,” because “the sector is really affected economically,” Leudo González, the president of the Superior Council of Tourism of Venezuela (Conseturismo), told AFP.

Prior to the arrival of Covid-19 in Venezuela in mid-March, when a national quarantine was decreed, tourism had already experienced a “significant decrease” over recent years, González said.

In 2019, hotel occupancy was around 30%, according to Conseturismo, a “critical” situation that worsened with the quarantine and other measures that are still ongoing.

Tourism was also hit by the collapse of air travel following a massive exodus of airlines due to state debts amounting to $3.8 billion dollars, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

This departure of airlines was the consequence of the lack of foreign exchange to repatriate profits within the framework of an exchange applied since 2003.

Commercial flights in Venezuela have been prohibited since March due to the pandemic, a restriction extended on Monday until November 12.

Maduro also announced that he will authorize “in due course” a “monitored general relaxation” of isolation measures. The new framework will establish sanitary regulations and time slots.

In Venezuela the so-called “7 + 7” scheme has been in force since June. It alternates seven days of “radical quarantine,” when all businesses are forced to close except those in prioritized sectors such as food or health, with seven of “flexibilization” that allow activities to be reactivated.

The virus met a Venezuela already struggling with hyperinflation and almost seven years of recession.

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