Hoteliers: Gov’t wants us to enforce COVID-19 order, didn’t bother to ask

By John McPhaul

Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association (PRHTA) President Joaquín Bolívar said Wednesday in a radio interview that the island government wants hotels to do the work of the police and the Department of Health when it comes to requiring that travelers who fail to produce a negative COVID-19 test result upon arrival remain in quarantine until doing so within two days.

“We are worried and confused,” Bolívar said. “The reality of life is that they are asking hoteliers to take actions that we believe are the responsibility of the Department of Health and the police, in terms of ‘enforcing’ a quarantine.”

In the latest executive order signed by Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia, it is established that people who arrive in Puerto Rico without a negative molecular test for COVID-19, done within 72 hours before their arrival, have up to 48 hours to be tested. Failure to do so will result in a $300 fine.

“It is our understanding that we do not have the authority or the power to tell a person that they cannot leave a room. These are rights that we would have to analyze by legal means, how it is possible that we can take those actions,” Bolívar said. “But it is worrying because we are hotels. We are not dedicated to police actions.”

“We are analyzing the legal alternatives that we have. But no hotel in Puerto Rico is trained or prepared to take action against a guest and require a quarantine,” he added. “For this type of action, personnel from the police or the Department of Health would be needed in each hotel in Puerto Rico, so that they can intervene.”

The PRHTA president said further that “[t]hese decisions have been made in a ‘vacuum’ without consulting absolutely anyone from the association.”

“No member of the association, and no member of the industry,” Bolívar said. “We go back and ask the government, as we have done on several occasions, to have communication with us so that we can prevent them from making decisions without having the operational hotel experience that could help all of us to focus on the matter in a productive way for us.”

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