November 28, 2020

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"I do not have 14,000 tests"

The National Guard (GN) general aide, General José Reyes, recognized that the ideal procedure is for travelers arriving on the Island to understand the need to undergo the coronavirus test and to be sure that they will not infect his relatives.

He stressed, however, that once Puerto Rico reopened its doors to tourism, this would imply more than 12,000 daily passengers with entry through the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport and affirmed that the GN does not have sufficient resources to carry out this number of tests.

The GN is in charge of the screening operation at the country’s airports, as well as the tests carried out in municipalities. The government is heading towards the reopening of more terminals at the airport, starting on July 1 with the reactivation of terminal A of the JetBlue line, as well as other flights at regional airports, which since mid-March have limited traffic .

“I believe that the correct path is that. You have to socialize the message and the purpose of what you are looking for. There are already states with these initiatives like Hawaii and Alaska and the purpose is to safeguard the health of the people. The message must be carried through the airlines, travel agencies, to all travelers who know that there are restrictions, “said Reyes.

The reopening of the island to tourism, he said, could increase the flow of passengers of 6,000 that currently number about 13,000 or 14,000. If none of these passengers arrives with a negative Covid-19 molecular test, then it would be up to the GN to perform it.

“In that case, operationally it is uphill. Trying to think that nobody meets the requirement to bring a test, would put the weight at the airport of doing more than 12,000 tests a day, “he said. “The first thing is that I don’t have them in inventory. I think the way forward is this and it is the right thing to do, but to achieve its implementation, you have to carry the message with all the airlines. ”

Health could detain travelers

He assured that , with the signing of an executive order such as the one advanced yesterday that will be formalized by Governor Wanda Vázquez, the Department of Health could have the power to arrest a person who refuses to undergo a test that the State has defined as compulsory. [19659002] “We don’t want to go to that extreme, but we do want to safeguard the health of the people. That is why it is important that when we go to establish the measure, we socialize the message that if you are going to travel to Puerto Rico, as Alaska and Hawaii do, you have to bring that document that you did the test and it is negative, ”said Reyes.

He recognized that the more people arrive with the test carried out, the easier it will be to comply with the order to do what is necessary at the airport.

“For me it is viable to do 800 or 1,000 tests a day. But I don’t have 14,000, “he said, mentioning that one option is to give priority to those who travel from places with a high incidence of Covid-19, such as New York or Florida.

On the positive cases that have occurred with travelers that caused outbreaks in municipalities such as Canóvanas, Ciales and Guayanilla, Reyes reiterated that the operation at the airport is not perfect. He recalled that the coronavirus test is not mandatory right now and that there are passengers who seek to hide their symptoms with medications.

In Puerto Rico, all flights continue to be redirected to the airport in Isla Verde. The GN performs screenings in Ponce, Aguadilla, Isla Grande and Ceiba for charter flights, cargo flights and those arriving from Vieques and Culebra.

“Aguadilla and Ponce open passenger flights on July 6 and we are increasing operations in these airports to increase screening for passengers, “Reyes recalled.

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