So do you all remember that blog post I wrote in early March saying the COVID-19 pandemic hadn’t hit South America and it was really nothing to worry about…..
On March 15th, with only 70 known cases of COVID-19 in the whole country, President Martin Vizcarra went on TV at 8pm and declared that a State of Emergency would be going into effect at 11:59pm the next day (27 hours later..). We didn’t realize it at the moment he was speaking, but this State of Emergency meant Peru would be closing not only all restaurants, stores, and tourist attractions, but also all domestic and international land, sea, and air borders. Wherever you found yourself at 11:59pm on March 16th was where you were going to stay for the next 15 days.
Thousands of Americans and citizens of other countries could not get home. Thousands of Peruvians both inside Peru and in other countries around the world could not get home. With very little warning, President Vizcarra trapped us all in an effort to try and keep us safe from this growing pandemic. And when the first 15 days didn’t have the desired effect, he extended the quarantine for 2 more weeks – through April 12th.
For right now, things are very strict, but overall it’s not horrible. I know there are definitely exceptions, but in general, there still seems to be plenty of food and water in most locations and the locals are friendly enough to try to help as much as they can. The USA and other countries were able to bring in repatriation flights and get a lot of people home to their families. For the rest of us, we
- Can only shop at grocery stores and pharmacies;
- Cannot leave our homes without a mask and gloves;
- Can only send one family member to the store at a time;
- Must stagger our shopping trips – only men are allowed out on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; only women are allowed out on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. No one leaves the house on Sundays;
- Cannot be outside the house between 6pm and 5am;
- Have very limited access to local transportation – you must have a government issued permit to drive a car or take a taxi or the public bus.
It’s not an ideal situation here right now, but at First Step Expeditions, our hope is that people will not allow this to taint the image of Peru going forward. While many of us don’t like the circumstances, the fact is that it’s working. Peru may still have just over 2000 positive COVID cases and close to 100 deaths at this point, but with a population of 32 million people, imagine what that number would be if they hadn’t taken these steps. This is a country with far less medical infrastructure than the US or the EU, so things could be much, much worse.
If you had to cancel your travel plans as a result of this situation, please know we will do everything we can to transfer your tickets and reservations to another date between now and 2022. We’re committed to restoring the image of Peru and making people feel comfortable coming here again to have the amazing experiences we have been showing other tourists for years. For the safety of our staff and customers, we’ve stopped selling trips until June 15th, but feel free to contact us directly if you have any questions about your current reservations or any reservations you want to potentially make in the future.
We’re doing our best to keep the wanderlust alive and hope you stay safe and healthy enough to join us in the future.