Puerto Rico gov issues executive order requiring test result or quarantine for airport passengers
CAROLINA, Puerto Rico – Alleging there is legal precedent, Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced defended on Tuesday her new executive order, which will require arriving airport passengers to present a negative test for coronavirus (COVID-19); otherwise, they must remain under a mandatory monitored quarantine until receiving a negative molecular-test result.
“Jurisprudence has established that the countries have full faculty to make determinations for the protection of the life and safety of their citizens. In the law of the Department of Health, it has vast powers in terms of protecting our citizens. And I, as governor, in an executive order that has been, um…the times it has been taken to court and we have seen cases in the United States where it has even been established by the Supreme Court where the states can establish those measures to protect the citizenry.
“Here, protecting the life and health of Puerto Ricans for me has the priority. And whoever comes to Puerto Rico, those are the rules. Because nobody wants a citizen to come infected and contaminate and spread a virus to a population that has been protected and has been following guidelines to save their lives and health.
“I believe that no one in Puerto Rico accepts that a person who has COVID-19 comes with impunity to infect others. So, the rules are those. If you want to come to Puerto Rico, those are the rules. If you want to go to a place where there are no such rules, you have destinations to choose from,” Vázquez said at a press conference held at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport.
Health Secretary Lorenzo González Feliciano said that there was no way to establish a traveler’s spread risk.
“It all depends on exposure and it all depends on where they come from. That is very difficult to establish. If they come from Florida, we have very high risks. If they come from Nebraska, possibly very low,” the official said. “I do not know, but really we do not have that data and I do not think it is accurate data, it varies depending on what is happening in the world.”
The executive order (2020-052), which goes in effect July 15, requires the use of a mask or face covering at all airports, filling out a travel declaration and providing the results of a negative molecular test administered no more than 72 hours before arrival, or the passenger will be ordered to go into quarantine.
Passengers who do not provide evidence of having been recently tested, will have to undergo testing at the airport. If the result of the rapid test is positive, they must remain in quarantine until the result of the molecular test arrives.
If the test result is positive, “the passenger must remain in quarantine for 14 days and will be responsible for assuming the medical and extension expenses of their stay, since the traveler must remain in isolation until the Health Department so determines,” reads a statement from the governor’s office, La Fortaleza.
Aviation mechanics and flight crew who will not stay in Puerto Rico for more than 72 hours will be exempt from the mandatory quarantine. Activate military personnel, federal agents or people authorized by the Health secretary are the only people exempt from the order, as everyone will be considered as having been exposed to the coronavirus and must fill a declaration that they will comply with established orders and protocols.
The declaration requires personal and contact information “for proper follow-up and monitoring by the Department of Health,” and is deemed an agreement to “comply with all orders, instructions, protocols and requests for information issued by the Department of Health, the National Guard and any other government entity concerned, which will be electronically interconnected with Aerostar [operator of Muñoz Marín Airport] and the Department of Health,” La Fortaleza said.
Secretary González explained that traveler surveillance will be both electronic and in person.
“For this, around 350 additional people will be hired, and an investment in technological infrastructure was made, including 200 computers and 300 cellphones. Similarly, Quest was contracted for $7.5 million for 100,000 molecular tests to be used in this effort,” the release reads.
“As you know, the government of Puerto Rico cannot control air traffic, so we cannot close or control the number of flights and / or passengers. But we have the power and the obligation to protect all of us who live here, and that is why we are implementing these measures to prevent further spread,” the governor said.
According to the decree, “the National Guard, in coordination with the Department of Health, the Ports Authority, the Department of Public Safety and any other governmental entity that deems it pertinent, shall take the necessary measures to implement the provisions of this Order,” as put by the governor’s published announcement.
The Puerto Rico Tourism Co. will be informing travel agencies and airlines and asking that they notify passengers of the requirements to travel to the island, whose destination marketing organization, Discover Puerto Rico, will also incorporate into its promotional efforts, the release says, adding that a website with more information and the travel declaration, will be created by “the agencies concerned.”