Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez announced a revision of Executive Order 2020-054 establishing that businesses will remain closed on July 26, except pharmacies, supermarkets, gas stations and restaurants. She also banned the sale of alcoholic beverages that day.
“We’ve seen a lack of control on the weekends, especially on Sundays, when many people forget that we’re still facing the emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.
“At a time when there is an increase in cases, hospitalizations and deaths, we can’t let our guard down and that’s why, together with industry representatives, we’ve determined to take more restrictive measures, for the time being, this Sunday,” said the governor.
The governor met with members of her medical and economic task forces, as well as the heads of the Puerto Rico Health Department, the Department of Economic Development and Commerce, as well as private-sector representatives. They allegedly all greed to close all businesses this Sunday, except grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations and restaurants.
Restaurant dining rooms must also remain closed. However, restaurants may offer delivery, pick-ups, or drive-up options to sell. Big-box retailers will only be able to open their grocery and pharmacy areas.
Religious services will be allowed on Sunday, with the appropriate measures to avoid contagions, the governor said.
During the rest of this week, residents are subject to Executive Order 2020-054 announced last week and in effect through July 31, which calls for a curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. and limits alcohol sales until 7 p.m., among other measures.
“We’ll all meet again next tuesday to assess whether people complied with the Executive Order over the weekend. Once analyzed, it will be determined if it is necessary to close again on Sunday, Aug. 2,” she said. “This is a precautionary measure to stop the contagion curve and continue making adjustments.”
She said the private associations represented at the meeting vowed to deliver the message to their members.
Medical Task Force Spokesman Segundo Rodríguez-Quilichini, said: “Both members of the medical and economic sectors met and reached a consensus on the need to take control of this pandemic, taking measures that go against our way of life, but the sacrifice and actions that we take today will bring positive results, and I’m sure that they will contribute to our mission of saving lives.”
As of Monday, the Health Department had reported 180 confirmed deaths by COVID-19 and 4,011 contagion cases. The agency said there were another 8,450 people that had possibly caught the deadly virus, while 336 people were hospitalized.
“We reached an agreement to be able to contain the pandemic. The private sector has an important role in educating and maintaining controls so that the economy can re-emerge,” said Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce President Juan Carlos Agosto.
“If there’s no health, there’s no economy, and we’re going to help the government in this deed,” Agosto said.
Meanwhile, Puerto Rico Restaurants Association Executive Director Gadiel Lebrón said while the island’s economy has been “badly affected by this whole situation, especially in jobs, which is one of the main reasons why restaurants have been operating. But above all, we have the responsibility to safeguard the health of our employees and customers. So, the decision made in consensus was based on that criterion.”
Meanwhile, Puerto Rico Retail Trade Association (known as ACDET, in Spanish) President Iván Báez said “the message is to not let our guards down.”
“We have to work together to stop this virus. We have to reiterate to our clients and our employees the protocol measures to contain this virus,” he said.
“We have launched an educational campaign to strengthen efforts at the store level. That is our commitment,” said Báez, who is director of public and government affairs for Walmart Puerto Rico.
Meanwhile, Miguel Vega, past president of the Puerto Rico Hotel & Tourism Association, acknowledged the industry recognizes the concern, but said “we need and are advocating that we’re in compliance with hotel and casino operations, which have been affected by the closure of pools and casinos, so we are respectfully asking for reconsideration.”
The areas were ordered shut over the weekend, after the new Executive Order went into effect. Casino operators said about 2,000 people lost their jobs as a result.
“But we understand that there are other sectors of the economy that aren’t following the rules and are prompting the pandemic to spike, and they must be stopped,” he said.