Puerto Rico to keep its borders closed to non-essential travel indefinitely
It looks like The Bahamas won’t be the only popular Caribbean destination stopping U.S. travelers from visiting this summer. Puerto Rico, which reopened briefly on July 15, will remain closed to domestic and international tourism indefinitely following a recent spike in Covid-19 cases. No new reopening date has been released yet and Discover Puerto Rico’s travel advisory states that until further notice, only essential travel will be allowed to the island, while “a continuous assessment of the situation in Puerto Rico and in the United States will influence Island-wide orders that prioritize health and safety.”
In other words, you probably won’t be able to visit Puerto Rico this summer, and if you’re already there, it’s definitely not going to be your typical carefree vacation.
Last week, Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced announced the latest round of health and safety measures being taken to better protect residents. For starters, face masks must be worn at all times—over your nose and mouth whether you’re inside or outside—or you could face fines, and you’ll need to practice social distancing by staying at least six feet from anyone outside your group whenever you’re in a public space.
As of July 17, all bars, clubs, gyms, casinos, theaters and other attractions are closed until further notice, and you won’t be able to buy alcohol anywhere after 7 p.m. Restaurants and museums can stay open as long as they’re running at 50% capacity and everyone is social distancing. Hotels are still open but guests must maintain proper distancing measures and wear masks in all public areas. Malls, hair salons and spas are open by appointment only, while hotels and restaurants are conducting temperature checks to ensure guests have temps under 100.3 degrees before they’re allowed to enter. Public transportation is also suspended and there’s an Island-wide curfew in place between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. through July 31.
Additionally, you’re only allowed to go to the beach between the hours of 5 a.m. and 7 p.m. if you’ll be jogging, swimming or surfing—no strolling on the beach or sun tanning here—and any recreational activities involving boats are off the table right now. All marinas, tourist attractions and tours are closed for the foreseeable future, as are hotel pools and fitness facilities. You can, however, go to the golf course Monday through Saturday. Tourists also aren’t allowed to take the ferry to Vieques or Culebra, as that privilege is reserved for residents only. Things are even more strict on Sundays, when alcohol sales are prohibited and all non-essential services—except gas stations, supermarkets, pharmacies and restaurants providing pick-up or delivery—are closed.
Beyond that, if you are planning any essential travel to Puerto Rico or want to visit whenever it officially reopens, be aware that arrival procedures have changed due to the pandemic. Mask-wearing and social distancing are mandatory as soon as you enter the airport, and thermographic cameras are there to monitor your temperature as you proceed through customs. You’ll need to fill out a Travel Declaration Form ahead of time online through the Puerto Rico Health Department’s website, and upon landing in San Juan, present negative test results from a molecular Covid-19 test taken within the last 72 hours.
If you’re unable to show a negative test result, you might be able to do a Covid-19 test locally, but you’ll have to self-isolate until you can prove you have one. In some cases, especially if you are showing symptoms at the airport, a rapid COVID-19 test may be conducted and a 14-day quarantine may be ordered. In all situations, you’re expected to pay for any associated medical or accommodation expenses.
Puerto Rico has done a decent job keeping Covid-19 under control, thanks to a series of health and safety guidelines aimed at keeping both visitors and residents from spreading the virus. As of this writing, The New York Times reports there have been 12,940 cases in Puerto Rico since the start of the pandemic, compared to the rest of the U.S., which has now surpassed 3.9 million cases.
This airline is promising to pay for COVID-19 medical and funeral costs
Emirates, an airline based out of Dubai, has announced it will be the first airline to offer full COVID-19 insurance for all passengers, regardless of what class they fly. The insurance will cover medical, quarantine and funeral costs for any passenger that catches COVID-19 during their travel. According to the press release, "Emirates customers can travel with confidence, as the airline will cover medical expenses of up to EUR 150,000 and quarantine costs of EUR 100 per day for 14 days, should they be diagnosed with COVID-19 during their travel, while they are away from home. This cover is provided by the airline, free of cost to its customers."The airline has also put forth stringent standards to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 for passengers while they are en route. The coverage is immediately in effect for any travel through October 31, 2020. The hotline number, and details of what COVID-19 related expenses are covered, is available on www.emirates.com/COVID19assistance.
State Department lifts international travel advisory
On August 6, the US State Department announced it was lifting its blanket advisory warning against all foreign travel. The advisory was lifted with coordination from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). What does it mean for travelers? The State Department traditionally has 4 advisory levels, from 1 to 4. Level 1 countries are consider low risk for American travelers, while Level 4 advisories are reserved for the most dangerous (such as Syria or North Korea). In March, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the State Department issued a blanket Level 4 advisory for all countries, warning Americans against all international travel and recommending Americans abroad make their way home to the United States. The August 6 announcement means that the State Department is going back to individual advisory recommendations based on each country's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, which you can view here: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories.html/Despite the lifting of the blanket advisory, the majority of countries across the world are still at a Level 3 or higher, meaning American travelers should reconsider any plans to visit those countries. Other borders are still closed to AmericansRegardless of the advisory levels of the American State Department, countries around the world are still closed to Americans. The vast majority of countries around the world have issued a ban on American travelers, stating the seriousness of our COVID-19 outbreak. The European Union and Canada are among popular destinations that are closed to Americans.
Delta Airlines has banned nearly 250 passengers for not wearing masks
Delta Airlines says that it has banned nearly 250 passengers from flying with the airline for refusing to abide by its mandatory mask policy. Delta has a very strict mask policy, requiring one be worn at all points in flight and across all check-points, including check-in, TSA security and boarding lines. In an internal memo that was shared with CNN, Delta CEO Ed Bastian said that "although rare, we continue to put passengers who refuse to follow the required face-covering rules on our no-fly list. As we work toward recovery, it's vital that we continue to stay focused on the drive to provide the safest, cleanest airports, aircraft and workspaces possible." If you choose to fly during the COVID-19 pandemic, the CDC advises wearing a mask in all airport locations.
Southwest Airlines announces they will begin booking flights at full capacity
Southwest Airlines has announced that it will begin booking flights at full capacity, allowing middle seats to be booked. The airline has been leaving middle seats open since the start of the pandemic in March in order to meet social distancing requirements in the wake of COVID-19. “This practice of effectively keeping middle seats open bridged us from the early days of the pandemic, when we had little knowledge about the behavior of the virus, to now,” Southwest CEO Gary C. Kelly said during the carrier's third-quarter report.“Today, aligned with science-based findings from trusted medical and aviation organizations, we will resume selling all available seats for travel beginning December 1, 2020.” The decision comes after Southwest posted a third quarter net loss of $1.2 billion, with revenues down 68.2% year over year. Southwest says that it will alert all passengers if the flight they are scheduled to be on is full, and will continue their policy of no fees to cancel or change flights. You can read more about Southwest's COVID-19 response here: https://www.southwest.com/Coronavirus