On January 5, 2021, Puerto Rico governor Pedro Pierluisi announced that the island’s COVID-19-related lockdowns would at last be easing.
The current state of restrictions has been in place since mid-July of 2020. They included mandatory masks, capacity restrictions and temperature checks in hotels, restaurants, and other businesses. Bars were closed. Beaches were partially closed, along with many non-essential businesses. Incoming tourists were required to pass COVID-19 tests before and after their travel and quarantine, at their own expense, while waiting for test results.
The new protocols, which debut on January 8, will ease the nightly curfew from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. It will broaden the open hours for beaches and tourist venues. Other restrictions such as small capacities in restaurants, museums, and casinos; social distancing requirements; and masks will remain in effect. Bars will remain closed, as a high-transmission venue, and public consumption of alcohol is off-limits.
“Our goal has to be to be able to return to a new normal,” Pierluisi said, according to the Associated Press. “We have to keep taking preventive measures in the meantime.”
Preventative measures are important; in a population of less than 4 million, Puerto Rico has seen more than 127,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 1,200 deaths.
Authorities are still encouraging people to limit their travels to essential trips, with even tourist company Discover Puerto Rico encouraging that. All arrivals are required to fill out Travel Declaration forms with the Puerto Rico Health Department before their arrival, including the results of a negative test taken no more than 72 hours before arrival.
Tourism is one of the most important parts of Puerto Rico’s economy, accounting for between 20 and 40 percent of the territory’s GDP. With the vaccine in process (17,800 doses administered so far), Puerto Rico can begin to rebuild now in 2021.