Puerto Rico fights COVID-19 wave, imposes new measures
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO – Puerto Rico on Tuesday imposed new measures to combat an increase in COVID-19 cases that have overwhelmed medical staff in the United States and resulted in a temporary shortage of test kits.
All private businesses that cater to the public must close from midnight to 5 a.m., no alcohol will be sold during these hours, and gatherings of more than 250 people are prohibited. The measures will remain in place until January 18 and come as the island of 3.3 million people records a positivity rate of more than 30%, the highest since the start of the pandemic.
The government has reported more than 201,000 confirmed cases and more than 3,300 deaths. Officials note that a third of all cases reported since the start of the pandemic have occurred in the last month, many of which are linked to a two-day outdoor concert held in December. The number of daily cases per 100,000 reported in Puerto Rico rose from three to 225 in just three weeks, according to statistician Rafael Irizarry. More than 500 people are hospitalized.
Almost 85% of people in Puerto Rico received the first dose and over 70% received the second. However, at least 40% did not receive a reminder.
The rise in the number of cases has caused temporary shortages of home test kits, with people taking to social media to share where they have run out or are still available, while some government-run testing sites closed early after running out of test kits for the day. . Meanwhile, the Puerto Rico Hospital Association urged people to stop going to the emergency room to request tests as the demand was overwhelming and prevented staff from handling urgent cases.
Following the peak, Governor Pedro Pierluisi ordered all businesses that sell food and drink to reduce capacity to 50% indoors and 75% outdoors until January 16. Restaurant workers and those working in health and education have also been ordered to receive their booster shots by January 15, while customers must show proof of vaccination or a negative test. to enter any business selling food or drink.
In addition, the government recently required that all disembarking cruise ship passengers be fully vaccinated and provide a negative test performed 48 hours before arrival, a move that has prompted several cruise lines to cancel their tours to Puerto Rico. .
Last month, Pierluisi announced that anyone traveling from the Americas to Puerto Rico must test negative 48 hours before, regardless of their vaccination status. Passengers without testing must undergo one within 48 hours of arrival or face a hefty fine, while those who are not vaccinated must remain in quarantine for seven days, whether negative or not.
On Monday, the University of Puerto Rico, the island’s largest public university, announced that it will offer online courses throughout January given the increase in cases.