Starting tomorrow, the government will begin to collect detailed information on visitors arriving at the island´s airports, a measure that is expected to provide greater control of a sector that represents a high risk of COVID-19 transmission.
This along with the requirement for passengers to bring a negative COVID-19 molecular test result is part of the new strategy seeking to contain the entry of possible sources of contagion.
Although Executive Order 2020-052 imposes a 14-day quarantine on visitors who do not bring test results, Health Secretary Lorenzo González said yesterday that those people shouldn´t travel to the island, particularly given the shortage of reagents for the diagnostic tests.
"Don't come to Puerto Rico after July 15, if you don't have a negative PCR test, stay home in the United States," he stressed.
"There are no resources; it´s not that we don't have the money, we don't have the reagents and we are going to use them on our older adults, our hospitals, our population," González added.
Despite the new measures imposed by the executive order, there will be areas beyond the government's reach that will depend exclusively on the individual responsibility of visitors and their families.
"All of this brings personal responsibility with it. We have to verify which passengers uploaded their information and which ones did not. This entails intense tracing logistics, being able to identify who is doing what, and who is not doing it. That's why the government has to carry out an intense campaign," acknowledged National Guard's adjutant general, General José Juan Reyes.
Miriam Ramos, the epidemiologist in charge of screening at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, said the government's guidelines allow for monitoring of passengers, but not for tracing. Tracing, she said, is only done when a visitor reveals that he or she was in direct contact with a person infected with the virus.
Monitoring, Ramos added, will allow the government to do "something that until now we have not been able to do due to the complexity of visitors. We can monitor through SARA (Situational Awareness and Response Assistant) digital platform what happens to that traveler for 14 days," she said.
Reyes and Ramos acknowledged that complying with the quarantine and recording information on the SARA platform, among other measures, depend on the passenger's willingness. Even so, both stressed the importance of these processes at a time when both infections and the number of visitors arriving on the island have increased.
Reyes said there are about 9,000 daily flights to Puerto Rico. He added that the number of rapid and molecular tests done at the airport has doubled.
The new executive order also makes it mandatory for travelers to wear masks. They must also fill out a traveler's declaration form specifying their personal information, where they will be staying and how to get in contact with them, either by email or phone.
Those who do not follow the new protocol face six months in jail and/or a fine.