Ecoventura update/ March 13: Coronavirus advice for Galapagos travel

AUTHOR The Ecoventura Team

Whilst cases of Coronavirus in Latin America are minimal and isolated, the Ecoventura team is taking all necessary steps to protect passengers, crew members, and staff.

As COVID-19 is now declared a global pandemic by the WHO and with travel restrictions in effect, we understand that many of you must have questions concerning security and prevention. Ecoventura is taking all necessary steps to protect the health and well-being of our passengers, crew members, and staff.  As part of supporting our community, we have proactively implemented several preventative measures outlined below due to growing concerns regarding COVID-19 infections.  Ecoventura will closely monitor the situation and take appropriate action as needed.

All of our cruise departures have operated normally, and we are proceeding as scheduled.  For guests who are paid in full, and would prefer to postpone their cruise, please contact Galapagos Network.  We are offering to reschedule guests confirmed through April 12 2020 on selected available departures in 2020 only at this time.  As this is an event of force majeure, Ecoventura is not required to incur any additional costs or to offer any refunds to replace services or make any substitutions, and any act of good faith is being handled on a case-by-case basis.

Regulations to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands

All visitors arriving to Ecuador from, or who has been in the past 14 days at, any of these 13 countries: China (Hubei and Guangdong), South Korea, Iran, Italy, Spain, Germany, France, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, The Netherlands and the United States of America (New York, Massachusetts, Washington and California) are required to maintain a 14-day home isolation.

All visitors arriving to Ecuador are required to sign a sworn Declaration of Health, to be handed out to Ecuador’s MPH officials upon arrival.  In this declaration, basic information is being asked, such as nationality, country of origin, arrival date, places visited in the past 14 days, contact number, hotel/home address. Then, they will undergo a first sanitary control by MPH.  If any visitor shows presents symptoms suspected to be with Covid-19 symptoms, including a high fever, dry cough and shortness of breath, and are at-risk, they will be taken to the MPH Sanitary Control Unit for an interview and further examination. Those who do not present symptoms will pass through to Immigration.

According to Ecuador’s Ministry of Health and the Government Council of the Galapagos National Park, an exhaustive control and review of all passengers traveling to Galapagos is being carried out. Ecuadorian authorities have strengthened control at their airports in Quito and Guayaquil and in Baltra and San Cristobal, since the confirmed case of COVID-19 in Guayaquil was announced on February 29th. Epidemiological surveillance is being maintained in airports, ports and terminals to control these types of strains and protect the population.

It should be noted that identified cases in Latin America are minimal and isolated, with a small cluster of cases identified in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Ecuador, and patients are currently in isolation to prevent further spread.  Currently, there are 19 reported cases in Ecuador, only two are hospitalized including the spreader who arrived on February 14 from Spain; 17 are in home isolation of which 5 are in Guayaquil (Guayas), 10 in Babahoyo (Los Rios), 1 in Quito (Pichincha) and 1 in Sucumbios.

To help restrict the spread of COVID-19 in the Galapagos Islands, the Galapagos Provincial Emergency Operations Committee has issued a resolution concerning the control and prevention of the entry of COVID-19 to the Galapagos.

The resolution states:

  • All travelers in ports and airports entering Galapagos, will be evaluated by medical staff of Ecuador’s Ministry of Public Health (MPH), according to the protocol established for this purpose.  Any traveler presenting COVID-19 symptoms that meet the definition established by the World Health Organization (WHO), the MPH will determine the risk of admission to the province of Galapagos and will recommend to the Governing Council the advice of admission.
  • Staff of the Special Governing Council of the Galapagos Regime (SGCGR) will continue with control immigration at the airports of Quito, Guayaquil, Baltra, and San Cristobal.  Control points are located before migration security filters at the airports and we urge guests to check in for their flight at least two hours prior to departure as there could be delays.
  • Preventative measures will be carried out through the traffic control technicians of the SGCGR in coordination with the Minister of Public Heath (MPH) officials, who will conduct migration interviews, in order to establish a record of the origin and permanence in Galapagos of all travelers who wish to enter.
  • Ecuador’s Ministry of Health started a new protocol on February 1, 2020 in Galapagos to screen visitors for the possibility of Coronavirus infection by checking each visitor’s temperature levels with a harmless temperature laser sensor. Visitors showing symptoms of the virus will undergo further medical review. If a visitor is tested and found with Coronavirus, he/she will be placed in quarantine as per the discretion of the Ministry.

Additional Ecoventura measures to minimize risks to passengers

Ecoventura has increased biosecurity measures to ensure the cleanliness and sanitization of our yachts.

The prevention methods being followed are indicated by the WHO:

  • All of our yachts follow a detailed 67-point cleaning chart in every state room and a 80-point cleaning chart for Food & Beverage, and they are all undergoing deep cleaning procedures on a regularly scheduled basis.
  • We have enhanced cleaning procedures including a more thorough cleaning of all hard surfaces in social areas including dinner tables, chairs, sofas, coffee tables, bars coffee station, buffet tables, and exteriors.
  • Our yachts are equipped with Ozone Treatment HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Arrestance) machines with filters that provide a complete air change every 30 minutes in our social areas.
  • All of the tableware, cutlery, and glassware is washed with antibacterial soap at a high temperature of 130 degrees.
  • All crew and guests are required to wash their hands frequently and rigorously with antibacterial  soap and hot water and advised not to touch their face.
  • Antibacterial gel is provided to guests and crew to be used in every transportation platform and key areas.  Guest cabins are cleaned thoroughly with Lysol Wipe outs.
  • Any member of the staff, or any passenger, who might present coughing or sneezing is required to wear a PPE mask covering their mouth and nose and be subject to additional screening.

If a guest presents symptoms of COVID-19 during the cruise, the guest will be quarantined to his/her cabin until a thorough medical check and assessment is made by a medical professional. If the guest is believed not to have the coronavirus, he/she will be released from quarantine and asked to use a medical face mask. Otherwise, the guest will be kept in his/her room and the captain will divert the ship to the nearest port with medical facilities where guest will disembark and be handed over to the Ministry of Health’s staff. This is the same protocol used when guests become ill with a stomach virus or flu so they do not infect other guests.

Ecoventura reserves the right to deny boarding or disembark any guest who might, under its sole discretion, be a threat to the health and safety of other guests and the onboard crew. Ecoventura will not provide refunds for guests who show symptoms of COVID-19 while on board and are quarantined to their cabin or are disembarked during the cruise as the guest will put the health of everyone onboard in jeopardy. This is why we strongly encourage trip medical evacuation insurance and trip cancellation and interruption insurance allowing you to cancel for any reason.

The crew is following strict hygiene rules to ensure everyone’s safety. Our crew is required to sanitize themselves every time they embark and required to report if they come into contact with a person showing symptoms of a virus. Should a crew member show symptoms of Coronavirus, they will undergo the same process as our guests, and if tested positive will be placed in quarantine and immediately transferred to the nearest port with medical facilities.

Updated terms and conditions for your trip

Ecoventura will maintain their terms and conditions regarding cancellations including guests who wish to reschedule their cruise. As this is an event of force majeure, Ecoventura is not required to incur any additional costs to replace services or make any substitutions and any act of good faith will be handled on a case by case basis. Additional costs will be incurred by the guest or to their travel insurance provider. Ecoventura will communicate to our agents and in a timely manner any of the above situations so that the best interests of the affected and non-affected guests are taken into consideration before decisions are made. Our pledge to excellent service will ensure that our guests, no matter the situation, will be treated with respect and empathy and we expect the same in return. Confidentiality of the affected guests and the situation will depend on the sole discretion of the captain and his/her assessment of the impact this might have on the safety and health of everyone onboard.