24-hour Sunday lockdown, $ 100 fine for not wearing mask among new measures to curb Covid-19
SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez issued an executive order Wednesday establishing more severe restrictions to contain the Covid-19 pandemic on the island, among them a 24-hour lockdown on Sundays and a $ 100 fine for people not wearing protective masks.
“In light of the spike in cases that has occurred due to neglect from various citizens, we will establish more severe measures. We must adjust to a new normality, and my priority is to protect the health of my people, ”the governor said shortly after signing Executive Order 2020-062, which will be enforced during the next 21 days, until Sept. 11.
A curfew is still in effect from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. as part of the new order, while during the Sunday lockdown, “people will only be able to go to supermarkets, pharmacies, medical appointments, or other services deemed essential, while the sale of alcoholic beverages is prohibited. Government services will remain as is, mostly through remote work, ”Vázquez added.
Mass transportation services will remain suspended. Restaurants, meanwhile, can open Monday through Saturday at a 25% maximum capacity, and businesses must guarantee a minimum physical distance of 6 feet to eight feet per person. Restaurants and stores with delivery or carry-out services must operate without queues or large gatherings at parking lots; otherwise, the non-complying business could be forcibly closed for 30 days.
“Any company that exceeds the established criteria will close operations and remain closed until submission and approval of a compliance by the Secretary of the Department of Health,” read one of the charts presented during the conference.
Outdoor shopping malls may only operate at 25% capacity, while indoor malls must impose a limit of one person per 100 square feet. Banks and other financial institutions may offer customers basic services such as making deposits, withdrawals and payments, while loan closings must be set up by appointment.
Given the hurricane season, the governor said, hardware stores can every day, including Sunday, but can only take customers by appointment. Childcare centers can remain operational as well.
On the other hand, bars, liquor stores, casinos, gyms and movie theaters must remain closed.
The new order comes on the heels of a spike in Covid-19 infections and related deaths in Puerto Rico this month, which peaked at 12 deaths Aug. 10 and about 300 to 400 confirmed infection cases per week, said Miguel Valencia, head of the Puerto Rico Health Department's vigilance system.
The head of the Public Health Trust Fund, José Rodriguez Orengo, added that although 80% of infections occur in people younger than 60, 75% of coronavirus-related deaths take place among the elderly. He also estimated there could be as many as 17,000 cases on the island by the end of August if no measures are taken.
In drafting the new executive order, the governor consulted two task forces, one made up of medical doctors and another focused on the economy. While the medical task force lobbied for a complete closing of shopping malls, dining at restaurants and even churches, the economic task force raised concerns about the dire effect of such restrictions on the local economy. Since March, the island’s already strained economy has been further affected by the spate of across-the-board closings in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.