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Puerto Rico Loosens COVID-19 Restrictions Once Again

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Puerto Rico beaches reopened on January 8 for recreational use.

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Puerto Rico beaches reopened on January 8 for recreational use.

As a U.S. territory, Puerto Rico is excluded from the recent CDC order that requires all international passengers flying into the United States to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test. 

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This is a developing story. For the latest information on traveling during the coronavirus outbreak, visit the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

Though Puerto Rico is still encouraging essential travel only right now, its new governor, Pedro Pierluisi, loosened several COVID-19 restrictions and reopened beaches, natural attractions, marinas, and pools on Friday, January 8. Pierluisi also lifted the Sunday lockdown and shortened the nightly curfew that has been in place on the island since the beginning of the pandemic. The new curfew—which is from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.—and other measures will last for at least 30 days from January 8, according to the lastest travel advisory.

The new governor will keep other measures implemented by former Governor Wanda Vázquez in place, including limited capacity at restaurants, museums, and gyms. 

“Our goal has to be to be able to return to a new normal,” Pierluisi told the Associated Press. “We have to keep taking preventive measures in the meantime.”

As of January 15, there have been 119,596 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 1,692 resulting deaths in Puerto Rico, according to data from the New York TimesThe CDC categorized Puerto Rico at its highest Level 4 COVID-19 rating due to the high level of cases on the island, and it is recommending that people avoid all travel there.

Here’s what else you need to know about travel in Puerto Rico right now.

Is Puerto Rico open for travel?

Puerto Rico is currently encouraging essential travel only at this time. Travelers who cannot postpone their trips must comply with all necessary requirements, including wearing face masks in public and following government mandated social-distancing efforts.

Individuals traveling for tourism purposes, including sightseeing, recreation, or attending cultural events, do not fall within the definition of “essential travel,” according to Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Technically, Puerto Rico has never closed its borders to U.S. citizens or foreign nationals who hadn’t been in China, Iran, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Ireland, or the European Shengen area in the previous 14 days. 

What kind of safety protocols are in place in Puerto Rico?

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In addition to completing a travel declaration form provided by the Puerto Rico Health Department, anyone over the age of two who enters Puerto Rico will be required to supply proof of negative molecular tests (nasal or throat swabs) from 72 hours prior. The government will not accept any other type of test, including the antibody ones that require a finger stick or blood drawn. Travelers will also receive an airport exit confirmation number and QR code when uploading their molecular test results to the Puerto Rico Health Department’s online portal.

Those who have been recently vaccinated are still required to supply proof of negative molecular tests from 72 hours prior.

Arriving passengers who do not have test results available, refuse to submit to testing upon arrival, or test positive will be required to quarantine for 14 days and cover their own medical and extended stay expenses. Those who wish to be released from quarantine will have to undergo a molecular test and share the negative results with the government, Puerto Rico health secretary Lorenzo González told the Associated Press.

“If you don’t want to be tested, stay home. Don’t come here and complicate our situation,” he said.

Those who can produce negative test results upon arrival will be allowed into Puerto Rico, but they will need to follow locally mandated rules, including wearing face masks when in public, or be subjected to fines. Social distancing is being enforced by limiting capacity at restaurants, museums, and hotel pools.

Are COVID-19 tests required to return to the mainland United States from Puerto Rico?

No. As a U.S. territory, Puerto Rico is excluded from the new CDC order that requires all international passengers flying into the United States—including returning U.S. citizens—to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to boarding. 

What flights to Puerto Rico are available?

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Because Puerto Rico never closed its borders, airlines continued to fly to and from the island. However, in order to better track people arriving in Puerto Rico, flights are only allowed in and out of San Juan’s Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport. While both both Rafael Hernández Airport in Aguadilla (BQN) and the Mercedita International Airport in Ponce (PSE) were scheduled to reopen on July 6 to passenger travel, Discover Puerto Rico’s travel advisory states that all passenger flights are still being diverted to Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport.

What else is open in Puerto Rico?

An island-wide curfew from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. is in effect as of January 8 and will last for at least 30 days. Ferry service to the island of Culebra for tourists started again on October 26, 2020, while ferry service to Vieques remains restricted to residents only.

Public beaches and natural reserves reopened for recreational use on January 8, but visitors must follow social-distancing guidelines and wear face masks when they are not in the water.

Capacity at casinos, gyms, museums, and restaurants is limited to 30 percent, while bars and clubs remain closed. Pools at hotels and other establishments are also open at 30 percent capacity. Retail shops and malls are open, as long as they operate at 30 percent capacity. Alcohol consumption is prohibited outside homes and restaurants.

Which hotels are open?

Many hotels in Puerto Rico stayed open throughout the pandemic for displaced travelers and frontline workers and reopened to local leisure travelers starting in June. As of January 8, hotels must close their common areas at 11 p.m. in accordance with the island-wide curfew.

The Hyatt Regency Grand Reserve Puerto Rico reopened for nonessential stays on June 2, 2020. In addition to requiring temperature checks and social-distancing measures like touchless check-in and check-out services per Hyatt’s Global Care and Cleanliness Commitment, Hyatt also installed UV light purifying air conditioners in all 579 rooms on the property.

Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve reopened on July 1, 2020. The mostly open-air property is set right on the northern coast of Puerto Rico, a 35-minute drive from San Juan’s Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport. Many of the hotel’s 115 guest rooms come with direct beach access and private plunge pools, making it easier to social distance and limit indoor interactions with other guests. As a Marriott property, Dorado Beach is following health and safety protocols in accordance with Marriott’s Global Cleanliness Council.

How to Pretend You’re in Puerto Rico at Home

The Associated Press contributed to this article. This article originally appeared online on June 26, 2020; it was updated on January 15, 2021, to include current information.

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