Puerto Rico to Gradually Restart Economic Activity
Governor Keeps Curfew until May 25; Announces Certain Services, Businesses Can Begin to Operate with Restrictions
SAN JUAN — Without presenting specific numbers to justify her decision, Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced said Thursday that she will sign an executive order to allow the reopening of much of the economic activity stopped a month and a half ago as the main measure to avoid the spread of COVID-19 on the island.
Although she admitted that the reopening of businesses should be conditioned on meeting criteria for a sustained reduction of cases, the establishment of an effective screening and case-tracking program, Vázquez Garced did not give details about where the island is in terms of meeting those needs.
The new order, which be in effect from May 4 to May 25, will provide for the resumption of the following commercial activity:
- certified public accountants
- financial services
- real estate
- professional services
- lottery sales and inspection centers
- elevator inspection
- moving companies
- services to ports and airports,
- repair and maintenance service of air conditioners.
- Pharmacies and gas stations may operate 7 days a week, at established hours.
Primary doctors and specialists, including mental health and optometrists, must continue to offer services via telemedicine, but with the new order, in-person visits may be made at their offices, treating their patients by appointment and with precautionary measures.
Vázquez Garced said that mortgage closings at financial institutions will be allowed by appointment, one client at a time and will be limited to requirements that could only be addressed in person. Everything else must be performed electronically.
Animal shelters were added to the exempt groups that provide basic needs to vulnerable populations.
Vehicle parts and repair services, as well as hardware stores, will now be able to operate Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. at 5 p.m., under the same conditions they operated until this week.
Also able to open are laundromats and cleaners, vehicle inspection centers and garden plant stores, from Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
In the construction industry, work will be allowed to attend to critical infrastructure, including: installation, repair, maintenance and restoration of energy production systems, based on renewable or alternate energy; repair and maintenance of roadways; as well as private infrastructure, to ensure the continuity of operations and services exempt from closure. In addition, the sale, installation and maintenance of infrastructure and equipment needed to prepare for hurricane season.
The resumption of manufacturing and construction operations will be conditioned on the Department of Labor certifying that health and safety protocols are being met and employees are provided with the necessary equipment to do their jobs, such as masks.
Among the excluded people added are civil litigation attorneys summoned before the courts and notaries only to offer the services detailed by the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico, the Consumer Affairs Department (DACO by its Spanish acronym) inspectors and University of Puerto Rico lab researchers.
“Our focus has been to carry out all the efforts necessary to safeguard the health, life and safety of all the inhabitants of Puerto Rico. Using that as a basis, we are gradually reactivating the economy and evaluating a reopening in phases and in an orderly and safe manner. We must bear in mind that the increase or decrease in the risk of contagion will depend to a great extent on the collaboration of the citizenry,” the governor said.
In addition, outdoor physical activities such as running, jogging, walking, cycling and walking with children will be allowed if people stay six feet apart and only betweend 5 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Supermarkets and grocery stores will continue to operate from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m., allowing deliveries until 10 p.m. The sale of prepared food will continue, exclusively through the drive-thru, carry-out or delivery model, without allowing diners inside the establishments.
“I ask the people of Puerto Rico, once again, for patience. We are all eager to resume our routine, but there needs to be an understanding of the measures we are taking, which I know are difficult, but they are for the health and safety of all Puerto Ricans. Step by step, we are going to continue evaluating the reactivation of the economic movement, with mechanisms in place that will allow the operation of more industries and services. Our priority is the health of all the people that call the island home,” the governor stressed.
The governor said that if the number of cases or deaths rises, she would order a return to the current state of lockdown and curfew. Otherwise, the third phase of business openings could take place starting May 25 and will include beauty salons and barbershops, among other activities.
The curfew will remain for the time being from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m.