SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico officially reopened to tourism from the mainland United States and foreign countries on Wednesday despite a rapid increase in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.
But the US commonwealth is requiring that incoming travelers provide a negative result from a molecular COVID-19 test administered within 72 hours of their arrival.
“You either come with the test done or you go into quarantine,” Puerto Rican Health Secretary Lorenzo Gonzalez told members of the media at the San Juan airport, referring to inbound tourists.
According to Gonzalez, those arriving in Puerto Rico also must fill out a declaration form that he said will take up just over five minutes of their time.
After learning from the media that some visitors had complained on Wednesday that they had not been informed about the test requirement, he said a better communication policy is needed.
One of those tourists was Wilkins Massa, who arrived from Philadelphia along with a group of minors. He told EFE upon his arrival at the San Juan airport that he was unaware of the requirement that took effect on Wednesday.
“They didn’t tell me anything about that,” he said, adding that he was waiting to undergo a serological test at the airport.
Despite the stern warning from the health secretary, arriving passengers will not necessarily go into a lengthy quarantine if they do not arrive with a negative test result in hand.
However, they will have to undergo a test for coronavirus antibodies at the airport (the serological test) and potentially take an additional molecular test if the first result comes back positive, according to an executive order signed this month by Puerto Rican Gov. Wanda Vazquez Garced.
Those with a positive molecular test result – or who refuse to be tested – will have to remain in quarantine for 14 days.
They also will be “responsible for assuming the medical and extension expenses of their stay, since the traveler must stay isolated until the Puerto Rico Health Department deems it necessary,” the order states.
Referring to an increase in coronavirus cases on the Caribbean island over the past week, Gonzalez acknowledged that the number has grown, but said the rate of new infections is lower than in the mainland US.
Asked what future measures the governor should adopt given that her current executive order on coronavirus containment measures expires next Wednesday, he said that will depend on the recommendations of the health experts who report to her.
The number of COVID-19 related hospitalizations on the island has risen to 254, an increase of 48 from Tuesday and the highest figure since the onset of the pandemic in Puerto Rico in March, health authorities said in a report released on Wednesday.
The total number of deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus on the US commonwealth has risen to 171 after two new fatalities.