On March 15, 2020, the Governor of Puerto Rico, Hon. Wanda Vázquez Garced, issued an Executive Order to facilitate the private and public closings necessary to combat the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and control the risk of contagion within the Island. Following CDC guidance, the Order includes several important quarantine and social distancing measures aimed at protecting the health and welfare of Puerto Rican citizens, including implementation of a curfew and the shutdown of non-essential commercial activity. Below is a summary of its directives, issued pursuant to the Governor's emergency powers:
- Establishes a curfew for all citizens, beginning March 15, 2020, at 9 p.m., through March 30, 2020, during which they must remain in their homes (with some exceptions detailed below).
- Orders all persons as to whom there is a reasonable suspicion of having been exposed to COVID-19, regardless of whether they are presenting signs or symptoms of contagion, to remain quarantined for a period of 14 days to be counted from the date of the issuance of the Executive Order.
- Orders a 14-day social isolation period for any person who has been infected with COVID-19 or as to whom there is a reasonable suspicion of having been so infected.
- Closes government operations, as well as the all commercial activity in Puerto Rico, commencing March 15, 2020, at 6:00 pm, until March 30, 2020, except as otherwise provided. This closure order does not apply to essential government services or to private establishments engaged in the retail sale of food through the "drive-thru", " "carry-out" or delivery model, including prepared foods or wholesale, medicines or medical equipment, pharmacies, supermarkets, gas stations, banking or financial institutions, nursing homes, or those related the distribution chains of food, medicines, medical items or fuel.
- The Executive Order emphasizes that its closing order applies to malls, cinemas, nightclubs, gaming rooms, theatres, playrooms, casinos, amusement parks, gyms, bars or any similar venue or event that encourages the meeting of a group of citizens in the same place.
- This curfew allows citizens to use public roads between 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 pm and only in the following circumstances: (a) obtaining food, pharmaceutical and basic necessity items; (b) traveling to medical appointments, hospitals, laboratories or medical service centers; (c) going to a workplace that under the Executive Order has not been ordered to close, or going to work if the employees (public or private) perform essential work; (d) returning home from a permitted activity; (e) providing assistance, care, or transportation for elderly citizens, minors, dependents, persons with disabilities or especially vulnerable persons who require some form of medical or professional care; and (f) going to a financial institution.
- During the curfew hours—from 9:00 p.m.-5:00 a.m.—citizens may only take public roads in emergency situations, except that the curfew restrictions do not apply to private or public security personnel at the state and federal level; health professionals; personnel working in hospitals, pharmacies, pharmaceutical companies, bioscience facilities or health centers; personnel working within the wholesale distribution chain; personnel whose work involve the manufacture of goods and foods from origin to consumer sales establishments; personnel working with critical infrastructure and utilities, call centers, port and airport staff; members of the press; or citizens who are dealing with an emergency or health situations. These individuals are authorized to travel to their workplace and back during whatever hours are necessary.
In order to accomplish these directives, the Executive Order instructs the Puerto Rico Police and the Puerto Rico Department of Public Safety to take the necessary measures to enforce its provisions. Violation of the Executive Order may result in the imposition of criminal penalties and fines, including imprisonment.
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