Puerto Rico takes tougher stance against tourists ignoring COVID-19 rules

Apr 1, 2021

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Puerto Rican authorities are being forced to crack down on aggressive tourists who refuse to follow the island’s requirements to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The island has seen a resurgence in tourism recently, mostly from the U.S. mainland,  which is a boon to the local economy. But that influx of visitors has led to an alarming increase in violent incidents with tourists who refuse to wear masks.

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Since mid-March, extra police patrols have been assigned to popular tourist areas such as Old San Juan, Condado and Santurce and enforce the island’s midnight curfew. Since the new measures were enacted, 27 arrests have been made in those so-called “tourist zones” for disorderly conduct and drug possession.

Related: Everything you need to know about visiting Puerto Rico right now

Some of the incidents that led to the new enforcement gained national attention. In one February encounter, a tourist threw a drink in the face of a woman in a wheelchair who asked that the tourists wear their masks.

Now, police are taking a stricter stance to get tourists to comply with restrictions. For example, they are reminding tourists of the island’s midnight to 5 a.m. curfew. Additionally, those who refuse to wear masks can be fined $100.

An overwhelming number of visitors to Puerto Rico so far in 2021 have come from the U.S. Of the nearly 12,000 flights to land on the island this year, 82% have arrived from the States.

Additionally, the island is gearing up for a rush of spring breakers coming from the mainland U.S. More than 3,500 officers will be stationed around tourist areas and the National Guard will station around 1,100 active soldiers around the island who will be tasked with enforcing the mask and curfew orders.

Puerto Rico officials put in place a series of guidelines for travelers to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. If you’re planning to visit, all visitors to the island have to fill out a Travel Declaration Form through Puerto Rico’s Health Department portal.

Travelers also have to get a PCR molecular COVID-19 test (nasal or throat swab) no more than 72 hours prior to their trip and show proof of a negative result. Otherwise, quarantine is required. A rapid test will not be accepted.

Related: A beginner’s guide to visiting Puerto Rico: Everything you need to eat, see and do

Because Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, it’s excluded from the CDC requirement to provide a negative COVID-19 test result to return to the mainland, though entry guidelines can vary from state to state.

Featured image by: Martin Wheeler / EyeEm.

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