Travelers headed to Puerto Rico must show proof of vaccination to stay in a hotel or a short-term rental on the island beginning next week.
Governor Pedro Pierluisi’s order also makes vaccinations mandatory for any hotel employee, government contractor, or healthcare worker in Puerto Rico. Those who refuse will be required to submit a weekly negative COVID test at their own expense. Violators will face up to a $5,000 fine and 6 months in jail.
“We have been immersed in this pandemic for a year and a half, which has affected us all,” Pierluisi said in a statement. “Puerto Rico began with a promising pattern of vaccinations, yet it is very unfortunate that there is a sector of the population that, despite having the resources available, has not been vaccinated.”
Puerto Rico is undergoing a spike in coronavirus cases, due primarily to the Delta variant, according to Carlos Mellado, Puerto Rico’s health secretary. The transmission rate is more than 11 percent this month, up from just 1.4 percent in late June.
“Considering this situation and having the health of all Puerto Ricans who work in government agencies and those who go to perform daily procedures as a priority, I signed this executive order because the vaccine is the solution,” Pierluisi said.
Puerto Rico has a population of about 3.3 million people and has reported more than 128,000 cases since the start of the pandemic. More than 2,500 people have died.
“With the latest variants, Delta in particular, vaccination is vital to keep the COVID-19 virus under control,” Mellado said. “We have been emphatic in carrying a message of prevention, and we continue to map out strategies that will allow us to move forward in the vaccination process to prevent serious illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths, even if infected with the virus. We must build on the progress that we have made as a population to achieve herd immunity.”
The requirement to mandate vaccinations for all hotel and Airbnb guests comes as Puerto Rico welcomed the first cruise ship to the island in more than 18 months last week. The Carnival Mardi Gras arrived last Tuesday in San Juan.
“This is incredibly important for us,” Carlos Mercado, executive director of Puerto Rico’s Tourism Company, told the Associated Press. “This is what we were missing.”
More than 95 percent of the ship’s passengers were fully vaccinated, with the bulk of those not being children under the age of 12 not yet eligible for the vaccine.