8 Apr 2020

Anger on Rapa Nui at early lifting of Covid-19 quarantine

8:14 am on 8 April 2020

There has been anger on Rapa Nui, or Easter Island, at the Chilean government's early lifting of the island's Covid-19 quarantine.

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Rapa Nui's Moai are famous around the world, with tourists from around the globe normally flocking to see them Photo: AFP / ALONSO SEPÚLVEDA / NOTIMEX

Authorities on Rapa Nui have rejected the central government's ruling to cut short the island's Covid-19 quarantine.

A televised announcement by Chile's health minister Jaime Mañalich that his government was opening the island within 48 hours was said to have blindsided people on Rapa Nui.

The island was placed under a fortnight's quarantine last week after coronavirus spread to five members of the same household.

A local businessman, Sebastian Paoa Aguila, said the island's leadership had met for three hours and agreed to keep the original timeline of 17 March, despite the announcement from Chile.

Mr Paoa Aguila said the airline Latam had also confirmed it would not start flights again for a month.

He said exposing the island to mainland Chile early was not a decision for Santiago.

"Because the quarantine will continue and that is one decision for Rapa Nui people [to] decide. And the authorities for the government in the island, they will talk with the minister and they will say you need to change what is your decision because also the authorities from the same government say that is not what will happen."

Mr Sebastian Paoa Aguila a continued quarantine period was needed to confirm how many people had been infected by the five existing cases.

It was estimated they came into contact with 120 other islanders.

Mr Paoa Aguila said contact with Chile, which had nearly 4,500 confirmed cases and 34 related deaths, posed a threat to the island.

"So, we don't understand why the government open again the plane for this Tuesday but our people be really angry with this information so I think they will stop in the airport [and] we may want a huge protest in the next days if this information is not changed."

Sebastián Paoa Águila

Sebastián Paoa Águila Photo: Sebastián Paoa Águila