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Coronavirus in Galapagos Ecuador and Peru - syringe
by on February 21, 2020

Coronavirus in Galapagos Ecuador and Peru

If you are reading this, likely you have read the news of coronavirus (COVID-19), a rapidly spreading virus that spread out of Wuhan City, Hubei Province. Globally, 4,943,378 cases of Coronavirus have been reported, leading to 322,000 deaths as of May.  Internationally, over 200 countries have over ten cases including the United States, Canada, Australia, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain. Within this blog, we discuss the risks of travelling to South and Central America, and if Coronavirus is present in Galapagos Ecuador and Peru.

Transmission of Coronavirus

The spread to humans of the Coronavirus is believed to have begun from within live animal and seafood markets. Animals carrying similar Coronavirus strains include camels, cats, and bats. Coronavirus transmission is now confirmed as human to human.

Symptoms of Coronavirus

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important not to panic. These symptoms are common in many illnesses, from the flu to the common cold. If symptoms worsen, visit a doctor.

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
Coronavirus in Galapagos Ecuador and Peru Corona Virus Diagram

Avoidance – Coronavirus in Galapagos, Ecuador, and Peru.

Clean your hands often

Scrub your hands often with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds. Alternatively, wash your hands using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing 60 to 95% alcohol. lastly, cover all parts of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.

Tips for Airplanes 

Studies say that germs can stay up to seven days on a plane! To evade getting sick, avoid touching frequently touched surfaces. Additionally, use sanitizing wipes on areas you will be in for lengthy periods of time. This includes seatbelts, tray tables, armrests, entertaining touch screens, and seat pockets.

Moreover, make sure you stay hydrated while traveling, eat nutritious foods, and get at least eight hours of sleep the night before. As a result, your system is ready to fight off any bacteria or virus the minute you come in contact with harmful germs.

Coronavirus in Galapagos, Ecuador, and Peru

Update March 06, 2020: Since writing this article, Ecuador, Brazil, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic each have confirmed the case of Coronavirus. The total number of confirmed cases in Ecuador remain very low. The patients and all those in contact are currently quarantined in the hospital. Ecuador is taking additional measures to ensure the country remains virus-free. Guests originating from the following 4 countries are screened in the airport upon arrival:

  • China
  • Italy
  • Iran
  • South Korea

Additionally, the Galapagos authorities are currently streamlining a new regulation to restrict travel to the islands of passengers that have been within critical outbreak areas within the last thirty days.

Earlier this week, the Galapagos Government Council issued a decree that caused many to get concerned about the possibility of entering the Galapagos. This decree mentioned that any person registering visits in the past 30 days to any of the four main affected countries (China, Italy, South Korea, and Iran), would not be allowed into the islands. After thinking about the consequences of this decision and receiving requests from the different local organizations supporting tourism, the Council has released a revised version today (resolution CGREG-ST-2020-0400-R), which goes more in line with the controls that exist in many other countries to prevent contagion related to the outbreak of COVID-19.

Please, consider that the following measures apply to all people traveling to mainland Ecuador and/or to the Galapagos Islands:

  • Airport controls on arrival to question and check passengers for potential symptoms.
  • In case the authorities consider a person poses any risk to the safety of others around, they will be put into quarantine while tests are run to discard the presence of the COVID-19 virus.
  • People from any country arriving in Ecuador or the Galapagos will not be prohibited entrance without showing any symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Part of the new regulation also restricts passengers with respiratory symptoms that meet the definition of the Covid-19 case (coronavirus)

Update March 11, 2020: Covid-19 figures remain low in Ecuador, two clusters have been identified and isolated. Ecuador & Galapagos travel operations remain fully functional.

Update March 21, 2020: Ecuador has closed its airports for international arrivals, there is currently a mobility restriction enforced throughout the whole country with a curfew, and Galapagos is completely inaccessible for the time being. Ecuador announced the restriction of international arrivals will only be enforced for 21 days, which means this restriction should be lifted by April the 5th. Given the current climate of things, it is likely Ecuador’s Quarantine will be extended.

Update May 19, 2020

As the world slowly transitions back into travelling and vacationing, there remain many questions on the protocols and changes that will be implemented. Below, we’ll focus on what the ministry of tourism is doing to keep visitors safe in the Galapagos, Ecuador, and Amazon rainforest.

When Will Travel Operations to Galapagos and Ecuador Begin?

Avianca airlines have stated that they are planning flight operations to Ecuador and the Galapagos islands starting July 1st and onwards. It is likely that other airlines will follow suit with this pattern.

New Biosecurity Protocols of Tour Operators

  1. Commercial flights will require masks.
  2. Guest will depose of gloves and masks in a biosecurity waste bag upon arrival of their flights.
  3. Upon arrival, your Galapagos guide will provide a “COVID kit” which includes new PPE equipment and hand sanitizer.
  4. Every staff members and passenger will take a temperature reading before boarding the ship, each guest will require a prior test proving they are clear of COVID beforehand. This is not just for Galapagos and Ecuador but will be a commonplace practice in other destinations in the world.
  5. For those unable to get the test at home, cruise owners and marina authorities will be able to give visitors a rapid COVID test, and following a clearing, guests will be able to board.
  6. For the duration of the cruise, staff members will not be returning home, and will be on the cruise or on excursions for the entirety. This means that passengers and staff enter COVID-free, and do not have the chance to get bring the virus aboard the ship at any point. Thus, traveling on Galapagos cruises will be one of the safest options for cruises.
  7. During all cruise periods, guides and crew members will have PPE & gloves for boarding procedures.
  8. All clothing worn during travel to the Galapagos will be stored in a provided toat bag, and may not be worn until after the cruise. This includes shoes! This procedure limits the spread of any contamination during travel, and most travelers will not likely be wearing travel clothing during their time spent in Galapagos either way.
  9. Staff will disinfect passenger shoes

COVID-19 Galapagos Prevention Measures

  1. Staff will frequently sanitize and deep clean all areas of the ship daily, especially in the social areas.
  2. Antibacterial soap and gel dispensers are available in each cabin and social area.
  3. Towels will be labelled for each individual guest for use during their stay
  4. No use of hot tubs until further notice
  5. Common areas have furniture more spread apart to increase social distancing.
  6. Buffets will cease until further notice. Table service will be implemented, and tables will be separated by groups (If you are a couple or group, you will be placed together!) Tables will maintain at least two meters of distance.
  7. Signage with proper handwashing procedures within bathrooms.
  8. Cabins will be cleaned twice daily. There will be one staff member assigned to each cabin throughout the duration of the stay to prevent any potential cross-contamination.
  9. After departure, the ship is sanitized top to bottom, along with a fumigation procedure.
  10. Staff will be consistently refreshed in training protocols. Additionally, the staff is required to take tests to pass safety, sanitation, and hygiene standards.
  11. Monitoring and replacing air conditioning filters upon every new departure.
  12. Guides will assure social distancing measures during briefings. Every evening, guides give a 10-15 minute briefing to guests on the following day’s activities, Galapagos animals likely to be seen, and what to bring.
  13. Traditionally, the Galapagos has a 1:16 ratio for guides to guests. Now, the new ratio will be one guide per eight guests, meaning cruises will have additional guides. This benefits guests in that they will have a more personalized experience, with more time for questions!
    What happens if someone gets sick on a cruise?

What happens if someone gets sick on a Galapagos cruise?

Guide, crew members, and passengers will immediately be informed of any illness, and procedures will determine whether the guest has COVID-19 or another illness. Until a determination is made, the guest will maintain two meters (six feet) from other guests. If the guest has COVID-19 symptoms, the guest will be isolated temporarily in the cabin with all companions that share that room until intervention by local authorities. The guest will have in-room dining, and a staff member trained in disease prevention trained would be charged with cleaning the cabin and assisting the passenger in any way. Additionally, The guest would be requested to wear a mask and will be given a biohazard waste bag. The cruise will immediately return to the port, and the ill passenger will be transported to a local hospital. The rest of the guests can then continue the cruise, but guests will have to be assigned to a specific hotel for quarantine before continuing travels.

How will Galapagos cruises be cleaned?

Galapagos cruise lines are acquiring electrostatic sprayers and ultraviolet light devices to disinfect the ship in a quick and efficient manner. These lights will be placed at entry points and doors when guests enter, so guests will be rapidly disinfected. Foot baths will be used, with sanitized mats available at all times. Baggage will be disinfected before entering the ship and will be carried by crew members on board (This is normally done anyway). All cruise lines will be undergoing international certification to make sure they are following international standards and protocols correctly. Suppliers of food, transport, and more will be required to follow these measures too.

Food on the Galapagos cruises

Multiple cruises in the Galapagos have begun sourcing food from local farms in the Galapagos that implement hydroponic technology, which allows them to reduce the need for any food transport and limit contamination potential. It also reduces carbon emissions from transport, recycles filtered rainwater, and provides delicious food out of season. Other benefits include no pesticides or antibiotics, better nutritional yield, and helping the local economy.

Hotels in the Galapagos and Ecuador

All hotels will follow protocols implemented by the ministry of tourism. Common spa areas will be discontinued until further notice. Instead, spa treatments will be available in-room, with hygienic protocols to keep guests safe. Hotels will arrange private in-room dining, and social distancing is currently in place. Staff members must shower before shifts, and change clothing after transportation.

The Amazon Rainforest of Ecuador

Ecuador has one of the best and closest access points to the Amazon rainforest. Within three hours by car, guests can arrive in this pristine destination. Regarding buses, they will travel at minimum capacity, and travellers will have social distancing on buses. Moreover, flights of 40 minutes are available that travel directly into the Amazon. Additionally, guides and drivers will be trained by the ministry of tourism on sanitization, proper hygiene, and social distancing protocols. For lodging, each group or couple will have a private bungalow, perfect for social distancing. Additionally, there are large properties with plenty of space between each area to allow for plenty of distance between guests.

Has your travel plans been impacted by Coronavirus in Galapagos Ecuador and Peru?

Please contact your trip advisor if your travel is affected by the pandemic. We are addressing our soon to travel customers, assisting in the postponement of their trip(s).
We understand these are unprecedented times, our heart goes out to all of those affected by the pandemic. Here is a video to keep your spirits up.

About Keenan Ennis

Keenan Ennis studied Conservation and wildlife biology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. This eventually lead him to a program in Ecuador studying hummingbirds and their keystone nutritional species in the Jama-Coaque Ecological Reserve. Since, he has worked with the critically endangered Bandurria Andina, or black-faced Ibis of the Andean Páramo. Through his ecological background, he provides an in depth insight into the conservation processes of the Galapagos Islands.

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