A pedestrian wearing a protective mask in the Condado area of San Juan, Puerto Rico. (Photographer: Gabriella N. Baez/Bloomberg)

Travelling to Puerto Rico? Don’t forget your COVID-19 test

A pedestrian wearing a protective mask in the Condado area of San Juan, Puerto Rico. (Photographer: Gabriella N. Baez/Bloomberg)

Travellers arriving in Puerto Rico will be required to show a negative COVID-19 test or submit to a two-week quarantine as the bankrupt US commonwealth tries to kickstart its tourism economy without triggering a surge in coronavirus cases.

Hiking in the El Yunque National Forest (Photo: Discover Puerto Rico)

Under the executive order announced Tuesday, people flying into Luis Munoz Marin International Airport starting July 15 will be required to show a negative molecular, or Pcr, test that has been taken in the past 72 hours. In addition, they will have to provide information about their travel history and itinerary. Those who don’t have proof that they’re COVID-free will be required to shelter for 14 days or until they are tested.

To enforce the rules, the government is hiring 350 “quarantine police.” While it’s not feasible to check in on every passenger who arrives on the island, officials plan to use the Sara Alert platform to monitor travellers and perform random spot checks. Those caught violating the rules face fines of as much as US$5,000.

Governor Wanda Vazquez said the new measures will keep visitors from mainland hot spots from importing the virus.

Puerto Rico took some strict measures at the onset of the virus and have managed to avoid some of much of the huge numbers seen in some US states.

“Puerto Rico is a desirable destination,” Vazquez said. “But we want to make it safe for those who are visiting and those who live here.”

Airline staff, the military, federal officials and others will be exempt.

The Caribbean island of 3.2 million people has taken some of the most aggressive measures of any US jurisdiction to control the coronavirus. It has had a nighttime curfew since March 15 and mask-wearing is mandatory. Early on in the pandemic, it closed all but its main airport to commercial flights and requires incoming passengers to run a gantlet of temperature checks and health questionnaires. In addition, some 280,500 people have been tested for COVID-19 at the airport.

The efforts seem to be working. Despite reopening large swathes of its economy, infection rates haven’t soared as they did in other parts of the US On Tuesday, the Health Department reported 55 new COVID-19 cases and 120 new suspected cases. Overall, the island has reported 7,465 confirmed and suspected cases of the coronavirus and 153 deaths due to COVID-19.