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Strict measures against Covid are saving lives in Puerto Rico

The positive outcome of the strict sanitary measures and the curfew in Puerto Rico are a lesson for the mainland.

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Curfews and stringent health measures have been implemented in Puerto Rico, saving many lives and the health care system. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, at least 94,336 cases of the virus have been confirmed in Puerto Rico, home to 3.2 million people.

The virus has so far killed at least 2,073 people on the island. However, its fragile health system has not been overwhelmed as in other territories thanks to the extraordinary measures that the local government put in place from the beginning, and the willingness of citizens to comply with them.

Professor of cellular neuroscience at Yale University and president of the Puerto Rico Science Coalition, Daniel Colón-Ramos, said that "in Puerto Rico, the pandemic was never politicized" and people were really "rowing in the same direction."

Deaths from COVID-19 increased around Thanksgiving, however, there has been no increase in cases since December, not even during or after the end-of-year holidays.

With the Covid-19 vaccination campaign underway, Puerto Rico is now on track to fully immunize two of its municipalities: Vieques and Culebra, two smaller islands off the coast of Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico was a pioneer in implementing mandatory facemasks and a total curfew, in which citizens did not leave their homes between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. If they did, it was only for essential purposes. Non-essential businesses were closed, public schools were closed and cruise ships were prohibited from disembarking from the island.

Throughout most of 2020, the government would send an alert to each person's phone to remind them that curfew was approaching.

Part of these 'drastic' decisions were thought out because Puerto Rico had few doctors to bear the weight of the pandemic. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, 72 of the island's 78 municipalities are considered medically underserved and faced "unmet health care needs."

A year into the health crisis and with restrictions loosening slightly, island officials are concerned about the increase in spring break tourism.

The island continues to take care of its population and last weekend the Health Department issued fines and closed 15 businesses in San Juan for violating COVID-19 regulations. For its part, the Puerto Rico Tourism Company also launched a campaign in English aimed at tourists, reminding visitors to follow local COVID-19 management regulations.

"Wear a mask or get a $100 fine," reads a billboard in San Juan.

In this regard, Justice Secretary Domingo Emanuelli confirmed that "residents deserve safety and peace of mind and our team of prosecutors will work to ensure it."

Puerto Rico is ensuring a return to 'normalcy' for its citizens. He expects that families will still be able to visit their elderly relatives in nursing homes and prisons for the first time in a year, as these populations have been vaccinated, Ramos said. 

About 12% of Puerto Rico's population has already been vaccinated with the first dose, and nearly 7% have been fully vaccinated.

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