By Jorge J. Muniz Ortiz
San Juan, Jan 4 (EFE).- The explosion of Covid-19 cases in Puerto Rico has led the government of the island, from Tuesday and until January 18, to close night commercial activities and to impose a dry law, among other restrictions.
The new Executive Order 2021-086 signed by Governor Pedro Pierluisi has been roundly criticized by local businessmen and prohibits the sale of alcohol and closes catering businesses to the public from midnight to 5 a.m.
The bans, the latest attempt to contain the record number of new Covid-19 cases in the US Commonwealth, most of them of the highly contagious variant of Omicron, have drawn ire from small business owners and managers selling food and drink, working hours many of which had stretched past midnight.
Ivan Villahermosa, the administrator of Casa Cataño and AquiCBB, two local businesses, criticized the new executive order for naming restaurants and bars as the alleged places where people are infected.
“I agree with anything that is for the good of the people. What is happening is that we are still separating and penalizing restaurants and bars,” he said in an interview with EFE on the seaside avenue in Cataño, a municipality next to San Juan.
He said Casa Cataño will not be affected by the new order, but AquiCBB will be, where the normal closing time is 2 a.m. Thus, this establishment will have to reduce its operations by two hours, which will result in a loss of potential revenue of several thousand dollars.
The new order also prohibits all gatherings of more than 250 people, whether indoors or outdoors, but it does not mention shopping malls or large markets where thousands of shoppers flock to. same time every day.
“So, (they) won’t be affected but (we) will be? This is why many of us are disturbed. We have to be fair to each other,” Villahermosa said.
Given this situation, the businessman proposed that the mayors of Puerto Rico’s 78 municipalities issue their own ordinances and restrictions to stop the spread of Covid on the island, where on Tuesday the rate of positive tests reached 33. .18%.
According to local health department figures, in the past 24 hours more than 8,700 new Covid cases have been detected, including cases confirmed by molecular and antigen tests, and four people have died from the virus.
Meanwhile, Jose Lomba, one of three owners of an event organization company called Pinchoneo in Guaynabo, another municipality near San Juan, told EFE that “the government always does things that affect small businesses and leave the big ones alone”.
“I don’t believe in shutting down, but I (believe) in taking care of myself and getting vaccinated. If in the morning you think Covid has hit you, then everyone goes home then,” said the businessman and event promoter.
Lomba said that Pinchoneo does not have a specific closing time because on some occasions it continues to operate until 4 a.m. to handle a public event, but the new order will force it to close and inform his customers that they have to leave.
“Now at 11 p.m. I have to kick people out and at 12 p.m. you have to clean everything because otherwise Finance and Health comes to check that there is no more food in the company or they fine you” , did he declare.
He said the company would lose around 20% of its potential revenue due to the new order.
The order is not the only one to come into effect last week, after capacity restrictions were imposed at local nightclubs and negative Covid tests or proof of vaccination were demanded of anyone wishing to attend public events.
The governor also approved a series of measures, including mandatory anti-Covid reminders for all health care personnel, teachers, police officers and restaurant and supermarket workers, among others.