Economic Development Secretary: We Must Learn to Live With This Reality
Says Curfew Should Remain While Certain Sectors Are Opened Amid Severe Unemployment
The secretary of the Department of Economic Development and Commerce (DDEC), Manuel Laboy said on Monday that the economy cannot bear to stay closed for several more months while a vaccine for COVID-19 is found, so Puerto Rico must adapt to the new reality.
“We have to learn to live with this reality already. We hope that at some point the vaccine will arrive, but there is no certainty about that. Some say that it will be months and obviously the economy cannot bear that. We have learned that we have been able to modify our behaviors as individuals and also as entrepreneurs to adapt to this new reality,” Laboy said in a radio interview (WKAQ).
The COVID-19 Medical Task Force released a report with its recommendations for a gradual reopening of the economy. The official said that the Economic Task Force also submitted a report and that both “are quite similar.”
“One thing is closure and another thing is the curfew. What is envisioned is that the flexibility of economic sectors is done from the point of view of the [business] closures, but we all agree that the curfew must continue, precisely because we have to maintain the social distancing controls that are important, in addition to that we have to do more tests, we have to continue addressing the tracing of contacts, among other things,” Laboy explained.
He indicated that he is recommending that the governor, Wanda Vázquez Garced, in her next executive order take into consideration the reopening of the construction sector, manufacturing and that the hospital sector is addressed to avoid the bankruptcy of private hospitals. In a second phase, the recommendation is that prohibitions on professional services, real estate, the financial sector and others be relaxed.
“We are going on the seventh week now and the economic situation is going to be very difficult. There are already estimates that unemployment could be…over 30 percent,” the official warned.
However, he said that remote and digital work will continue to be encouraged. In cases where warranted, employers must take all precautions.
On Sunday, May 3, the current executive order of curfew and business closures expires, which includes a curfew between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m. Some businesses operate in a limited fashion, while supermarkets are closed Sundays.