Puerto Rico begins a new stage in the fight against COVID-19 this Friday with the entry into force of an executive order promoted by Governor Pedro Pierluisi, who opens the post with an initiative that involves a relaxation of the restrictions that some sectors warn will have consequences.
Puerto Ricans will be able to enjoy as of today a relaxation of the restrictions whose main note is to reduce the curfew, which will now begin two hours later, at 11:00 at night, the end of the closing of the business on Sundays -until the moment only opened the essential- and the opening of beaches.
The objective of these measures, as Pierluisi made clear, is to give an opportunity to the recovery of the weakened economy of the island, where more than 25,000 small businesses have been affected by the pandemic, but the initiative provokes reservations among those who see a possibility of worsening infections and deaths.
Pierluisi, in his first press conference as governor this week, acknowledged that if it were up to him, he would even eliminate the curfew, but that specialists advised him not to make radical changes.
The chief executive did make it clear that he reserves the right to go back if infections rise.
New order will last 30 days
The entry into force of the new measures, with a duration of 30 days, occurs on the day on which the Department of Health reported 879 new positive cases and 4 additional deaths, for a total of 74,726 infections and 1,592 deaths.
The new executive order allows the opening of beaches, marinas, parks and other communal areas in family units and with a distance of 3 meters (10 feet).
Urbanizations and condominiums may open their recreational areas to 30% capacity, but alcohol consumption is not allowed.
Bars and discos are still closed
Although the total closure of Sundays is eliminated, bars and discos will still not operate, while the commercial sector, which includes restaurants and shopping centers, will have to maintain its operations at 30% of its capacity.
“I have sought a balance,” said Pierluisi, after noting that he has consulted with all the experts to try to be the most fair.
Pierluisi said he has ordered the Secretary of the Treasury to prepare an incentive plan within 10 days to mitigate business losses with surplus funds from the economic stimulus program known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES).
He pointed out that there are 230 million dollars available for that purpose, although it could go up to 417.
Pierluisi also announced an action plan for mass testing throughout the island and an educational campaign through media and social networks.
The new executive order has the reservations of the organization Task Force Ciudadano, whose president, Francisco Colón, advocated to monitor the level of contagion before the relaxation of restrictions.
“Expanding the hours of activity until 11:00 at night and eliminating the Prohibition Law carry risks and we have to remain vigilant. If contagions begin to rise, it should be seriously considered bringing Prohibition back, and, secondly, reducing operating hours, ”said Colón.
The impact of eliminating the Prohibition Law -on December 30- will be seen in the second and third weeks of January, while the impact of the new executive order will begin to be felt at the end of the month and at the beginning of February, he added.
“The sustained reduction in infections and the use of hospital resources in the second half of December was most likely the result of the measures imposed in the executive order of December 7, in particular the Prohibition Law on weekends. The effect of having eliminated it remains to be seen ”, he concluded.