Puerto Rico will cautiously reopen beaches, restaurants, churches, beauty salons, and retail stores next week with new and strict rules, as part of the process to get out of a confinement that started two months ago and stifled commercial activity on an island. that beforehand she was burdened by financial problems.

Governor Wanda Vázquez announced Thursday that most businesses will reopen Tuesday, but a curfew will remain from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. until June 15. Everyone will be required to wear a mask outside and inside any business, no matter what they are doing.

“Puerto Rico faces a new way of living,” he said. “The time is right … we have flattened the curve.”

Many Puerto Ricans, including business owners, cheered the long-awaited announcement.

However, health experts warned that the government has not tested enough people, nor has it tracked enough contacts, and is unprepared for a possible spike in infections. Furthermore, most of the reopens contradict the recommendations made by a medical team specially appointed by the government.

The Department of Health of this United States territory has reported more than 2,900 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 disease and at least 126 deaths, and dozens more infections arise every day. The authorities do not update the statistics regularly, including those for the number of people who have been tested or recovered. Until recently, the island had a lower rate of evidence per capita than any state in the United States.

Mónica Feliú-Mójer, spokeswoman for CienciaPR, a nonprofit group of Puerto Rican scientists who want widespread testing to be applied, said she is concerned that government information does not show that the coronavirus is controlled.

Vazquez said the restricted reopening will protect people, but it will also provide much-needed economic relief on an island that has been hit by hurricanes and earthquakes. The resumption of some normal activities takes place as the government restructures part of its more than $ 70 billion public debt after it declared the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history in 2015.

Restaurants will be allowed to operate at 25% of their capacity. Beauty salons and barber shops will receive their clients only by appointment. People who exercise, such as surfing, running, swimming, or kayaking, can be on the beaches from 5 in the morning to 7 at night. Retail stores may reopen but with limited capacity, and people will be prohibited from trying on clothes, among other restrictions. The shopping centers will return to operation on June 8.

“You are not going to be walking down the halls like before,” said the governor. “It will be like the lanes … We have to be disciplined.”

Businesses that will be closed for now include gyms and cinemas, and the island’s main international airport will be the only one to receive flights.

Economist José Caraballo said that the confinement, one of the strictest in any US jurisdiction, has caused economic losses that are estimated to range between 6,000 and 12,000 million dollars. The unemployment rate has soared to approximately 40% on an island with 3.2 million inhabitants that has a poverty rate of over 40%, higher than that of any state in the United States.

Unlike the situation after Hurricanes Maria and Irma and a series of recent earthquakes, Puerto Ricans are unable to move to the continental United States due to the pandemic, Caraballo said in an interview via telephone.

“They are desperate,” he noted. “The usual exhaust valve, which was migration, is closed.”

Delays in the distribution of local and federal aid have also worsened the financial problems of many Puerto Ricans affected by natural disasters and the island’s bankruptcy process, after which austerity measures have been applied.

“The inefficiency of the government has caused the social crisis that we have right now,” said Caraballo.

Children attending public schools and people applying for unemployment benefits due to the pandemic have been particularly affected.

The government kept school cafeterias closed for nearly two months, choosing to send their food to nonprofits and a local food bank, where they quickly ran out. So some teachers bought food for their students with their own money.

In addition, about 90,000 people applied for unemployment benefits due to the pandemic when funds became available on April 28, but an online system became saturated and blocked. It was not until Thursday that the government reported that the first 50,000 people began receiving payments. It is unknown when the remaining applicants will receive the money.

Some business owners did not feel that there was anything to celebrate.

Stylist Anabel Fuentes said she lost about $ 8,000 during confinement and that she must now find a more affordable place to rent as she cannot accept many clients.

“Financial problems will continue, they may even get worse and go bankrupt,” he said. “It will not be the same.”

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