That commerce or restaurants with closings or schedule limitations are not penalized is what several industry leaders ask, noting that the statistics establish that 54% of the cases that are registered in this rebound by COVID-19 are related to social and family activities.
In an interview with Primera Hora, presidents and directors of several organizations that group small and medium-sized merchants, retail businesses and restaurants said that greater restrictions in a future executive order of Governor Pedro Pierluisi would aggravate the already battered economic situation that they have dragged down. since last year.
In fact, the president of the Association of Puerto Rican Shopping Centers, Adolfo González, revealed that measures that restrict the public in their shopping or consumption hours lead to greater crowding in the hours they remain open.
“These chinchorreo activities and the beaches is where it has gotten out of control. Closing on a Sunday or restricting hours does not solve the problem. COVID hits any day if you don’t have security measures and protocols in place, ”said the president of the Retail Trade Association, Iván Báez.
However, it is anticipated that the government will take more restrictive measures for the population in light of the worst rebound in COVID-19 cases on the island, including limits on businesses.
Given the alert that, for example, the occupancy capacity could be reduced from 50% to 30%, that it could close on Sundays or reduce the curfew hours, the merchants interviewed agreed that they are not part of the of the cause for which such an increase in cases is reported.
“It seems to me that what we have seen is a greater increase in family gatherings, concerts, crowds of people on the beach, as we saw at Easter, and yet we do not see the same impetus from the authorities to intervene with those people who do this type of activities ”, reproached the past president of the United Center for Retailers (CUD), José Argüelles.
The merchant demanded citizen cooperation and greater intervention by the municipal police in places where such social activities take place.
“We can put 20 restrictions, we can continue closing businesses, undermining people’s jobs, but if people keep looking for a place to go to have fun, gather together, without any major consequences, we will end up in the same thing,” said the merchant, by demanding fines from citizens who attend such events.
Instead, he affirmed that very few businesses fail to comply with the protocol to prevent COVID-19 infections. Therefore, he said that imposing greater restrictions on them would be detrimental.
“It will cause greater damage, since we are still recovering from practically a year that the trade was closed,” he said.
González, who leads the organization that groups the shopping centers, explained that in the entire pandemic, not a single outbreak has been documented among the employees of these precincts.
He also explained that greater operating limitations would mainly affect small merchants. Meanwhile, he revealed that, last December, that a “lockdown” was imposed on Sundays, a rise in visitors could be documented on Saturdays and Mondays.
“It was seen that there was an increase of about 10% in visitors on Saturdays, as they knew that Sunday was closed, and I know that from the supermarkets it is much higher. The increase on Saturdays becomes a problem to handle people, especially at 30% capacity, which was what happened in December. On Mondays the increase was 6%, ”said the official, who runs the San Patricio Plaza shopping center.
“What we really do is call for people to collaborate,” added González.
Likewise, the official clarified that shopping centers are not a source of contagion.
“It is very important to clarify precisely the recent expressions of the epidemiologist Fabiola Cruz, where through a publication on her social networks she said that workplaces make up the highest percentage of exposure to coronavirus with 25%, followed by centers commercial with 15%. The data presented by the Department of Health Tracking System refers to the places that infected people have visited in the past two weeks, which is different from asserting that these places are the main sources of contagion. These data do not determine where the infections occur or the risk that is run in each of those places. This distinction is very important ”, he stipulated.
For his part, the president of the Restaurant Association, José Salvatella, indicated that his businesses have already implemented very strict protocols. Therefore, he asked the government to see them as “part of the solution, not the problem.”
He indicated that more time should be given to the executive order that came into effect last Friday and that has already reduced their hours of operation until 9:00 p.m.
“You should be given time to see the effect of these measures and to include us in the deliberations that the Health Council does. It is not fair that they are targeting any particular industry, “he said, commenting that more restrictions could precipitate the closure of more restaurants.
Báez, on the other hand, reported that retail businesses have reinforced measures against COVID-19 in this rebound. As an example, he indicated that they have started educational campaigns in the media and social networks, as well as reinforced security measures in their businesses with more alerts to citizens through loudspeakers and greater supervision in compliance with protocols .
“Many of our members are vaccination centers and it would be a contradiction to limit our hours. We are helping to vaccinate. Limiting the hours of retail trade would be counterproductive, “he concluded.