Puerto Rico reopens its beaches and eases some lockdown measures
Puerto Rico's beaches will reopen to the public on Friday following an executive order by its new governor, Pedro Pierluisi, that eases long-standing lockdown measures discouraging gatherings.
An islandwide curfew will reduce to the hours between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., the governor's office announced, and outdoor attractions like beaches, marinas, pools and natural areas can open with new social distance and mask protocols in place. The 30-day measure can be reversed at any time due to coronavirus case rates.
The U.S. territory is still discouraging nonessential travel to the island, and entry requires a negative PCR (polymerase chain reaction) coronavirus test result taken no more than 72 hours before arrival. Visitors must also complete a health declaration and upload their official test results to an online portal to exit the airport and avoid a 14-day quarantine.
The executive order also notes that museums, restaurants, malls, theaters, casinos and hotel pools can open at 30 percent capacity and with distancing and masking measures in place. Access to the Old San Juan historic district will be limited after 9 p.m., and alcohol consumption is prohibited outside of restaurants and homes across the island.
Pierluisi told reporters the measures were aimed at Puerto Ricans' "quality of life," according to the Associated Press, and that his goal for the island is "to return to a new normal," which demands ongoing preventive health measures.
"To an extent, the new executive order provides small business owners, who have been heavily affected by the pandemic, and residents, more flexibility as the Island carves its path to economic recovery," Puerto Rico's tourism board said of the changes in a statement. "Only essential travel is being encouraged at this time. If a trip cannot be postponed or canceled, travelers are required to take a PCR coronavirus test no more than 72 hours before their arrival."
Before the changes, Puerto Rico's beaches were only partially open for "individual sports" and Sundays were lockdown days that only allowed essential businesses like pharmacies, gas stations and grocery stores to be open.
The territory has seen more than 79,000 coronavirus cases and 1,570 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.