13 Jan 2021

Covid isolation on Easter Island

From Summer Times with Emile Donovan , 9:20 am on 13 January 2021

Easter Island - Rapa Nui sits 2000 kilometres west of Chile, and at the south east corner of Polynesia. 

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Known for the towering stone heads or moai that sit on the island, tourists usually flock there. 

Of course there are no tourists flocking anywhere much at the moment, making things tough for people working in the industry. 

Marc Shields is a New Zealander who has been living and working on Rapa Nui with his family the past 12 years. 

Usually a tourism operator, Marc is using his spare time to make videos about life on the island.

He told Summer Times the island is doing well, all things considered.

"[It] looks beautiful as far as the nature and the beautiful ocean, the island is a beautiful place to live," he says.

The island, like New Zealand, locked itself away from the outside world when Covid-19 began spreading from country to country.

Shields says the island will not re-open to tourists until vaccines are widely distributed throughout the world.

When that will be is anyone's guess, he jokes.

On a more serious note, however, residents on Easter Island are beginning to feel the pinch financially.

"Half the island is [working] in tourism and half the island is employed by the [Chilean] government so half the people lost their jobs.

"Some who had a bit more money were able to reinvent themselves and start little fast food restaurants and... importing coffee, but then only half the people have got the money to buy."

Shields says the island's mayor began employing people who lost their jobs to go and plant vegetable gardens at resident's homes for minimum wage to ensure they could afford to eat.

He says the $600 a month those people get only goes so far because of the high costs from living on the island.

Shields also believes Easter Island will be the last of Chile's population to receive a vaccine when it is available.

Chile reported more than 4000 cases on Sunday, adding to its total of 649,000 and 17,182 deaths.

Until a vaccine comes, Shields says he will continue working on his new passion project - making Youtube videos to showcase what Easter Island has to offer.

He's hopeful his videos will entice tourists back to the island, once restrictions are lifted.

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