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Police chief, Health officials urge responsible enjoyment of university games


By John McPhaul

jpmcphaul@gmail.com


Police Commissioner Antonio López Figueroa called on participants, spectators and visitors who will meet in Ponce on the occasion of the annual university games to enjoy the sporting and recreational events in a safe and responsible manner.


“This will be the first large-scale and long-lasting event to be held on the island since the start of the pandemic,” López Figueroa said in a written statement. “We want to make sure that competitions, shows and other social events run smoothly, in harmony, and with respect for others. Our troops will be vigilant and committed to protecting life and property. However, we all have to contribute with our actions.”


The city of Ponce will be the main venue for the Inter-University Athletic League Sports Festival, known locally as “Las Justas,” being held at Francisco “Paquito” Montaner Stadium through Saturday after an interruption of two years. The athletics fair brings together hundreds of university students who also attend various artistic activities including music concerts, which this year will take place today through Saturday.


“Isolated incidents of fights have been reported in the past few years. However, what has been reported the most and which causes us the greatest concern is the number of people intoxicated with alcohol,” the police commissioner said. “Although health professionals are responsible for the medical care of these people, the security aspect falls to the Police. Many people overindulge in alcoholic beverages. This can cause problems and even cause the commission of crimes, which requires the intervention of our agents.”


One area in which police will concentrate their surveillance efforts is car accidents. In this regard, López Figueroa noted that, in the years prior to the declaration of the pandemic, 43 car accidents were reported in 2018, and 38 in 2019.


“We urge drivers to be moderate in alcohol consumption and delegate a sober driver, to wear a seat belt and to follow the traffic regulations, in particular not using a cell phone while driving,” the police commissioner said.


Meanwhile, the island Department of Health (DH) called on all Las Justas participants to take preventative measures against exposure to COVID-19.


“You can enjoy sports and the music with safety. If you have some symptoms you should not expose yourself,” Health Secretary Carlos Mellado López said Tuesday in a press release. “Our recommendation is that you take a test for detection of the virus on the fifth day after being exposed. It is the responsibility of everyone to ward off and prevent infection, especially with the adult community or with those who have not been vaccinated.”


The DH in coordination with the Municipality of Ponce has established particular measures, which include the compulsory use of diagnostic testing centers and distribution of masks. Also, 6,000 home test kits are to be distributed to attendees at the entrance.


Melissa Marzán Rodríguez, head of epidemiology at the DH, said “we find ourselves in a situation of a high level of community transmission, so it is necessary that we all do our part to prevent this event from becoming a super spreader event.”


“We call on everyone who is planning to attend the games to enjoy them responsibly using masks and routinely washing hands,” she added.


The officials invited members of the public to keep themselves informed through the DH’s web pages.

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