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Safe airports and ports

Airports and seaports are essential infrastructures for the normalization of Puerto Rico´s socio-economic activities, and they are affected by external factors.  

The will to resume activities that include international components, such as tourism, a vital sector for the Puerto Rican economy, must come with strict prevention measures at ports to prevent the spread of the COVID-19.

 Even without an accurate system on infection and tracing figures, and with nearly 150 deaths associated with the virus, the island has not suffered the collapse of its hospital network.  And Puerto Ricans as well as visitors will notice this in the face of less fortunate realities in the United States and other countries in the regions.

Therefore, the government, the tourism industry, and people, in general, must improve initiatives seeking to minimize the risks of a coronavirus surge, while economic recovery phases advance, after three months of social distancing and a curfew stricter than the current one.

Health experts have stressed the importance of administering virus test to every traveler at our international airport, not only to identify contagion but to better trace positive cases. They have proposed to implement molecular tests on arrival and to repeat them on the fifth day of a visitor's stay on the island.

The international airport authorities announced they will implement the protocol designed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to complete, starting in July, a form to facilitate the contact tracing, based on the information provided by visitors. They say they will appeal to citizens´ responsibility to prevent the spread because testing and responding to tracing calls depend on voluntary actions.

Prevention at the airport is key because air traffic between Puerto Rico and the United States increases in the summer when university students and other Puerto Ricans living in states such as Florida, Texas, and New York return to visit their families and enjoy the island.

Until June 22, nearly nine million people worldwide were infected with COVID-19 and nearly half a million have died. The United States is the country with the most COVID-19 infections and deaths in the world. Until Monday, preliminary figures show more than two million infections and nearly 120,000 deaths.

In Florida, home to nearly 1 million Puerto Ricans, cases yesterday surpassed 10,000 and deaths were close to 3,173. Meanwhile, in New York, also with a large Puerto Rican population, there were 396,452 confirmed cases and 31,965 deaths.

As part of the economic reactivation in Puerto Rico, authorities consider reopening seaports and allowing cruise ships to dock on the island. The cruise ship industry has been severely impacted by the virus worldwide.

The increase in air passenger arrivals, as well as an eventual reopening of cruise ship activity, requires strong epidemiological surveillance and contact tracing systems and molecular test availability. And at the same time, it is vital to keep daily prevention measures seeking to prevent a surge in coronavirus cases and outbreaks.

Calibrating the formula to revive tourism with appropriate prevention measures in airports, ports, hotels, restaurants, and attractions can join the efforts by other sectors of the economy to strengthen the road to Puerto Rico´s recovery, which we would like to be a model for the world.