August 5, 2021

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An eye on passengers | El Nuevo Día

The Department of Health seeks to use a digital platform provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to monitor passengers arriving on the island amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the epidemiologist who is in charge of airport screening operations, Miriam Ramos and National Guard Assistant Adjutant General José Juan Reyes stressed that each person must assume the social responsibility of complying with isolation measures still necessary to prevent the spread of the virus.

“That is why there is a campaign so that (those) people whose relatives come to the island insist that they get tested. It is an appeal to individual responsibility. If you are traveling, then I want to be sure that I am not coming to infect you,” Ramos said.

On the platform, called Situational Awareness and Response Assistant (SARA), the information provided by passengers goes to a ticket that will be distributed by the airlines before each aircraft lands. The information will be used by the government to contact passengers daily – during the 14 days they must remain isolated – and check their health, Ramos said.

On March 30, Governor Wanda Vázquez issued an executive order for all passengers arriving on the island to remain in quarantine for 14 days.

“With the campaign, we want to strengthen the social responsibility of citizens to watch over their health and that of their families. However, the decision to take the test is up to the passenger because it is a voluntary act,” added Health Secretary Lorenzo González in written statements.

The epidemiologist said that all passengers will be required to provide basic information such as name, address, telephone number, and place of origin, as well as details on how they wish to be contacted. “If you develop symptoms of the coronavirus, The Health Department will activate a protocol to address them,” Ramos said.

The epidemiologist said she hopes the platform will be operating “by the beginning of July before there is a total reopening in terms of flights.”

Aerostar Airport Holdings, which operates the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in Isla Verde, had planned to reopen terminal A of Jetblue Airlines on June 15, but was delayed because they must coordinate the operation with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), said Reyes.

Once that terminal reopens, the number of passengers entering the island should reach 4,000 to 5,000 daily, the general said.

Last week, the Health secretary indicated that machines would be placed at the airport to perform the molecular test to diagnose COVID-19 that produces the result in less than an hour, called “ID Now.”

However, González later clarified in writing that this test cannot be used at the airport because the infrastructure would not allow it to meet the requirements of several health entities. Among these requirements, he mentioned having security booths because of the possibility of generating aerosols thus increasing the risk of contagion.

“We will consider all the possible variables, including the infrastructure, and the use of ‘ID Now’ at the airport is not viable,” the official said.

Meanwhile, the same voluntary screening of passengers that the National Guard has been doing since March will remain at the airport and consists of using thermal scanners on passengers. Those with a fever will be advised to undergo a rapid test to detect coronavirus antibodies.

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