Gov’t, cruise lines drafting new protocols for PR homeport vessels
By The Star Staff
Puerto Rico Ports Authority Executive Director Joel Pizá Batiz said Wednesday that in a joint effort with the Department of Health, the Tourism Co. and cruise lines, it is working on additional protocols for the operations of cruise ships that originate trips in Puerto Rico.
The new protocols seek to facilitate logistics that allow cruise ships to operate from the Port of San Juan without violating public health policy related to COVID-19. Business groups that depend on tourism blasted the government for banning cruise ship passengers from disembarking on the island this week.
Pizá Batiz said it has been agreed that home port operations will continue to be carried out with existing protocols until Jan. 16. The protocols are rigorous and endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
During the next few days, in coordination with the cruise lines, the protocols for home port operations will be further strengthened, the Ports chief said.
“The Government of Puerto Rico has always sought balance in decision-making related to the pandemic to safeguard the health and safety of all and not further affect the economy,” Pizá Batiz said in a written statement. “Therefore, we have joined forces to address this situation. Among the alternatives that we have evaluated so far is dividing the cruise passengers into three categories, each with its respective additional public health requirements.”
The categories are: (1) residents of Puerto Rico: when they disembark from their itinerary, they will have to complete the Travel Declaration Form and a test must be conducted in Puerto Rico within 48 hours; (2) non-residents who disembark from the home port operation and take a flight that same day outside of Puerto Rico: those passengers may disembark without any restriction or molecular or antigen test requirement; and (3) non-residents of Puerto Rico who decide to stay for one or more days on the island: those passengers must have a negative PCR or antigen test performed on or before 48 hours upon arrival in Puerto Rico, Pizá Batiz said.
He noted that the cruise lines received the proposal for home port operations either Monday or Tuesday and that “now we are waiting to receive their impressions and recommendations so that in a coordinated manner the protocols already established can be amended.”
Health Secretary Carlos Mellado López said the measures are necessary to guard the safety of the population at a time when cases and hospitalizations continue to increase.
“Affirmative actions will make it possible to protect health resources,” he said. “We have a responsibility to continue the efforts necessary to prevent and stop the spread of COVID-19. We have been an example for other jurisdictions and we trust that we will be able to remain open for tourism while we attend to the emergency caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.”