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Puerto Rico Implements New Vaccination Policy For All Staying On The Island
As Covid-19 cases surge in Puerto Rico, the US territory is establishing new policies in order to curb the Delta variant that is spreading on the island. As the Associated Press reported, Puerto Rico will require both guests and employees of all hotels, paradores, guesthouses and short-term rentals— including app rentals such as Airbnb— to submit either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of their arrival on property.
The new rule also mandates weekly negative tests to be presented to authorities for those who decide to stay longer. Those not vaccinated due to medical or religious reasons must provide proper documentation confirming this, and are still required to present negative tests on a weekly basis.
The government’s requirements are go into effect on August, 16, and for those who refuse to follow the rules will be fined $5,000 or six months in prison.
“We cannot lower our guard,” Puerto Rico’s Governor Pedro Pierluisi said during a news conference on August 5. “There are vaccines for everyone. Vaccinations are the solution.”
Puerto Rico’s new policies are a response to the recent spike in the virus cases that reached an 11% transmission rate this month, compared to a 1.4% rate reported in late June.
The Delta variant is the majority of the new cases reported, according to Carlos Mellado, Puerto Rico’s health secretary. He also said that 20% of current hospitalizations are people who have not been fully vaccinated.
The requirements consist of providing evidence of either a PCR molecular or antigen COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of arrival. If the traveler arrives without a test, they must upload either a PCR molecular or antigen COVID-19 test taken on the Island, within 48 hours of arrival, or they will receive a $300 fine.
If the uploaded result is negative, the quarantine is lifted, and the fine is waived. If the result is positive, the person must isolate and follow the local isolation protocol at the traveler’s own expense.
As found on Puerto Rico’s official website, the requirements apply to travelers arriving on domestic and international flights, regardless of vaccination status.
However, if a symptomatic traveler (a person who is displaying COVID-19 related symptoms) who is not vaccinated arrives on the Island, the Puerto Rico National Guard will conduct a PCR molecular COVID-19 test at the airport, and it will be mandatory for the traveler to quarantine and cover their own medical expenses.
The quarantine is mandated until the traveler receives the negative test result and digitally uploads proof of a negative PCR molecular COVID-19 test result to the Puerto Rico Health Department’s online portal. Those who test positive will not be able to travel until the Health Department releases them.
Governor Pedro Pierluis said all government contractors, health facility workers, including laboratories and elderly care centers, will be subject to the same set of testing and vaccination requirements.