Puerto Rico Tightens COVID-19 Restrictions Once Again

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Puerto Rico Tightens COVID-19 Restrictions Once Again


Photo by Shutterstock Puerto Rico is encouraging only essential travel at the moment.
This is a developing story. For the latest information on traveling during the coronavirus outbreak, visit the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

After loosening restrictions this fall, Puerto Rico is once again scaling back its reopening after a spike in COVID-19 cases; it is only encouraging essential travel for now. As of December 7, a 10 p.m to 5 a.m. nightly curfew and a 24-hour lockdown on Sunday will be in effect through January 7, according to the lastest travel advisory. Public beaches are closed to everyone except for those doing exercise, while restaurants, casinos, gyms, and museums are limited to 30 percent capacity. Bars and clubs remain closed.

As of December 11, there have been 93,073 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 1,238 resulting deaths in Puerto Rico, according to data from the New York TimesThe CDC categorized Puerto Rico at its highest Level 4 COVID-19 rating due to the high level of cases on the island, and it is recommending that people avoid all travel there.

Here’s what else you need to know about travel in Puerto Rico right now.

Is Puerto Rico open for travel?

Puerto Rico is currently encouraging essential travel only at this time. Travelers who cannot postpone their trips must comply with all necessary requirements, including wearing face masks in public and following government mandated social-distancing efforts.

Individuals traveling for tourism purposes, including sightseeing, recreation, or attending cultural events, do not fall within the definition of “essential travel,” according to Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Technically, Puerto Rico has never closed its borders to U.S. citizens or foreign nationals who hadn’t been in China, Iran, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Ireland, or the European Shengen area in the previous 14 days. 

What kind of safety protocols are being put in place in Puerto Rico?

In addition to completing a travel declaration form provided by the Puerto Rico Health Department, anyone over the age of two who enters Puerto Rico will be required to supply proof of negative molecular tests (nasal or throat swabs) from 72 hours prior. The government will not accept any other type of test, including the antibody ones that require a finger stick or blood drawn. Travelers will also receive an airport exit confirmation number and QR code when uploading their molecular test results to the Puerto Rico Health Department’s online portal.

Arriving passengers who do not have test results available, refuse to submit to testing upon arrival, or test positive will be required to quarantine for 14 days and cover their own medical and extended stay expenses. Those who wish to be released from quarantine will have to undergo a molecular test and share the negative results with the government, Puerto Rico health secretary Lorenzo González told the Associated Press.

“If you don’t want to be tested, stay home. Don’t come here and complicate our situation,” he said.

Those who can produce negative test results upon arrival will be allowed into Puerto Rico, but they will need to follow locally mandated rules, including wearing face masks when in public, or be subjected to fines. Social distancing is being enforced by limiting capacity at restaurants, museums, and hotel pools.

What flights to Puerto Rico are available?

Because Puerto Rico never closed its borders, airlines continued to fly to and from the island. However, in order to better track people arriving in Puerto Rico, flights are only allowed in and out of San Juan’s Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport. While both both Rafael Hernández Airport in Aguadilla (BQN) and the Mercedita International Airport in Ponce (PSE) were scheduled to reopen on July 6 to passenger travel, Discover Puerto Rico’s travel advisory states that all passenger flights are still being diverted to Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport.

What else is open in Puerto Rico?

An island-wide curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. and a 24-hour lockdown on Sundays will remain in place through January 7, with exceptions only made for emergencies. Ferry service to the island of Culebra for tourists started again on October 26, while ferry service to Vieques remains restricted to residents only.

Public beaches are open solely to joggers, swimmers, and surfers. Capacity at casinos, gyms, museums, and restaurants is limited to 30 percent, while bars and clubs remain closed. Pools at hotels and other establishments are also open at 30 percent capacity. Retail shops and malls are open, as long as they operate at 30 percent capacity. Alcohol sales are also prohibited on Saturdays from 5 a.m. through Mondays at 5 a.m.

Which hotels are open?

Many hotels in Puerto Rico stayed open throughout the pandemic for displaced travelers and frontline workers and reopened to local leisure travelers starting in June. As of December 7, hotels must close their common areas at 9 p.m. in accordance with the island-wide curfew.

The Hyatt Regency Grand Reserve Puerto Rico reopened for nonessential stays on June 2. In addition to requiring temperature checks and social-distancing measures like touchless check-in and check-out services per Hyatt’s Global Care and Cleanliness Commitment, Hyatt also installed UV light purifying air conditioners in all 579 rooms on the property.

Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve reopened on July 1, 2020. The mostly open-air property is set right on the northern coast of Puerto Rico, a 35-minute drive from San Juan’s Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport. Many of the hotel’s 115 guest rooms come with direct beach access and private plunge pools, making it easier to social distance and limit indoor interactions with other guests. As a Marriott property, Dorado Beach is following health and safety protocols in accordance with Marriott’s Global Cleanliness Council.

The Associated Press contributed to this article. This article originally appeared online on June 26, 2020; it was updated on December 11, 2020, to include current information.

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