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Chile’s Easter Island reopens to tourists after pandemic shutdown

Tourists arrive to the Mataveri international airport in Hanga Roa, Easter Island, Chile on Aug 4, 2022. (MIGUEL SANCHEZ / AFP)

SANTIAGO / WASHINGTON – Chile's Easter Island received its first group of tourists on Thursday after closing its borders for more than two years due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Easter Island, over 3,219 km from the coast of Chile, has over a thousand stone statues – giant heads that were carved centuries ago by the island’s inhabitants – which have brought it fame and UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

Visitors must be fully vaccinated and present a negative PCR test taken no more than 24 hours before boarding a domestic flight to the island

"(Easter Island) is the biggest open air museum in the world,” said Pedro Edmunds, the mayor of Easter Island, adding that it was time to open the island after it shut its borders 868 days ago.

"We've learned what the pandemic is about and know how to take care of ourselves,” Edmunds said, adding that the focus was on keeping guests safe.

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Visitors must be fully vaccinated and present a negative PCR test taken no more than 24 hours before boarding a domestic flight to the island. Tourists aboard international flights to the island must take an antigen test once they arrive.

LATAM airlines said it reopened the route from Santiago to Easter Island with flights on Thursdays and Saturdays and hopes to add more.

"LATAM will gradually increase frequency as health measures allow," said Constanza Pizarro, LATAM's communications manager. "We're coordinating with authorities.”

In this Jan 24 file photo, medical staff carry out from an ambulance a person at the COVID-19 infected patients section at the Pokrovskaya hospital in Saint Petersburg. (OLGA MALTSEVA / AFP)

Russia

Russia has registered a total of 820,307 COVID-related deaths since the start of the pandemic in the country in April 2020, the state statistics service Rosstat said on Friday.

It said 4,991 people had died of COVID-19 or related causes in June, down from 7,098 in May.

Russia recorded more than 965,000 excess deaths between April 2020 and June 2022 compared with the average mortality in 2015-2019, Reuters calculations showed.

In this file photo taken on July 27, 2022, US President Joe Biden coughs while delivering remarks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC. Joe Biden has tested positive for COVID-19 for a second time and is returning to isolation, his White House doctor said on July 30, 2022, attributing the result to "rebound" positivity from treatment the US president received. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / AFP)

US

US President Joe Biden's cough "has almost completely resolved" but his COVID-19 testing still came back positive, his doctor said on Friday.

Biden "continues to feel very well" and will continue strict isolation measures given the test result, White House physician Dr. Kevin O'Connor wrote in an update.

In the afternoon, Biden is scheduled to sign two bills that "will help hold those who commit fraud under COVID-19 small business relief programs accountable."

Biden tested positive for COVID-19 on July 21, and tested negative on July 26 after days of isolation and treatment. He tested positive again on July 30 in a "rebound" case, according to the White House.