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Chile's Easter Island reopens to tourists after pandemic shutdown

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SANTIAGO, Aug 5 (Reuters) - 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 2,000 miles (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.

"(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.

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."

Reporting by Reuters TV; Writing by Alexander Villegas, editing by Deepa Babington
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