Puerto Rico Gov to Announce New Executive Order Without Media Presence
May Reestablish Some Provisions of March 15 Order, such as Fewer Curfew Hours
By Rafelli González and Yanira Hernández Cabiya
SAN JUAN — The announcement that Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced is preparing to make Saturday at 5 p.m. along with her coronavirus pandemic and economic work teams will not include questions from the press.
In her broadcast via the government’s channel, WIPR, it is expected that she will finally announce whether the stay-at-home measures and closure of nonessential business facilities will be extended past April 13 or if recommendations for a controlled opening of the economy were accepted.
Caribbean Business learned that the announcement this afternoon will be of a return to most of the provisions in the original executive order, of March 15, thus making the measures taken in recent weeks more flexible. The curfew would again begin at 9 p.m. instead of 7 p.m.; the traffic restriction based on vehicle license plate number would be eliminated but the general sta-home order would remain for non-exempt activities.
The announcement comes only hours after the executive order that imposes restrictions on business, vehicle flow and other social distancing measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
The first executive order was issued March 15, a week after the first suspicious case was reported, an Italian tourist traveling on a Caribbean cruise. For that first announcement, a controlled announcement was also used without the media present.
The order caused so much uncertainty that it had to be amended repeatedly to clarify its extent.
When the order was extended in late March, the governor announced it in a press conference in the courtyard of her official residence, La Fortaleza. The language of the document issued days later also required amending to clarify provisions.
On this occasion, after a tough week in which Vázquez Garced gave a press conference to defend the process by which her administration made a controversial purchase of rapid Covid-19 tests from companies without expertise for that type of transaction, the governor and her medical advisers—some of whom are being questioned for allegedly recommending suppliers without expertise but with close ties to the top leadership of the majority New Progressive Party—will not be taking questions from the media.
Vázquez Garced’s decision to not take questions goes against the commitment to transparency that she and her task force stress. In fact, transparency continues to be public policy since the executive order that her predecessor, former Gov. Ricardo Rosselló promulgated for this purpose has been in force since the beginning of his time in office in 2017.
Possible extension of distancing measures
The lack of an effective accountability policy is particularly important at a time when the controlled opening of businesses and companies is being considered.
The same is evident, since it is not the first time that Vázquez Garced rejects confronting government watchdogs, which clashes against the public interest of stopping the spread of the disease for society to return to everyday life.
At the end of this week, the epidemiological data offered by the government continued to be questioned by the scientific community, due to the small number of rapid and molecular tests available and the lack of interest in evidencing the efforts being made to obtain them.
Neither is the tracking of positive cases and their possible contacts evident, a strategy that has proven to be key globally to begin to resume public activity safely.
The multimillion-dollar impact that the home-confinement measures have already had on the economy have led the Private Sector Coalition to ask the governor for modifications to the executive order for the orderly opening of businesses. It is unclear whether such a recommendation has been accepted, nor whether she will take advantage of the occasion to finally welcome the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO), which says testing on suspected patients is essential to defeat the pandemic.
In fact, WHO recommended considering six important points before a government considers lifting quarantine measures for COVID-19. Among these points are ensuring the availability of sufficient public health services and hospital room, minimizing the risk of community spread in public places and care for the elderly, and the integration of the population as the central axis of an orderly transition.
The announcement will also be broadcast on the Notiséis 360 Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/notiseis360pr/
Meanwhile, Puerto Rico’s Senate has already announced the extension of its recess until May 4.