VALPARAÍSO – A vacation permit has raised anxiety in Chile’s region over a massive tourist influx from the capital. With Covid-19 cases spiking, authorities worry that the visitors could push the situation over the edge. Things look to grow intense especially in Valparaíso.
A special vacation permit is causing consternation among small localities. The permit was created to enable Santiaguinos to travel to the coast, but now some authorities worry the related influx of tourists could spell disaster for regions that are already struggling to contain the pandemic.
To avoid the worst, some regions are preparing special health protocols.
On Jan. 1, Health Minister Enrique Paris announced the creation of a vacation permit that can be downloaded through Mar. 31 for interregional travel.
Health undersecretary Paula Daza told CNN Chile that “[the pandemic] has had a big negative impact on mental and social health,” adding “when you give people too many restrictive rules, after 10 months, they stop following them. This permit will aid us in tracing and following people.”
The permit is accessible for residents of phase-2 quarantine areas. Travelers must provide a destination address in another region, which they must reach within 48h after receiving the permit.
Residents in areas under lockdown (phase 1) are not eligible, and residents in phase-3 areas do not need a permit if the destination is also in a phase-3 area.
The permit can be requested only once and each adult traveler needs one.
Preparing for Tourists
Almost 47,000 permits have already been requested, 70% in the Metropolitan Region, where infections have also spiked.
Most destinations are in the regions of Coquimbo, Araucanía, and Valparaíso, where the Health Ministry will step up inspections in response.
Authorities in Valparaíso Region are drawing up safety measures like a flag system to alert beach goers when the limit is reached. Health authorities are also proposing requesting a negative PCR test from travelers from the Metropolitan Region.
Meanwhile, only 20 intensive care beds remain available in the region, which recorded almost 36,700 infections. Authorities have already warned that a full lockdown is likely if the situation doesn’t improve.