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Puerto Rico Drops Test Requirement for Vaccinated Travelers Arriving on Domestic Flights
Photo by Shutterstock Travel to Puerto Rico just got a lot simpler.
Additionally, the U.S. territory lifted the nightly curfew that has been in place since March 2020 and increased capacity at pools, restaurants, museums, and gyms from 30 percent to 50 percent, according to the lastest travel advisory.
As of May 24, there have been 171,378 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 2,472 resulting deaths in Puerto Rico. By that same date, 32 percent of residents age 18 and older are fully vaccinated, and 45 percent have received at least one dose, according to data from the New York Times. The CDC still has Puerto Rico categorized at its highest Level 4 COVID-19 rating due to the high level of cases on the island and recommends getting vaccinated if you must travel to Puerto Rico.
Here’s what else you need to know about traveling safely and responsibly in Puerto Rico right now.
Is Puerto Rico open for travel?
Technically, Puerto Rico has never closed its borders to U.S. citizens or foreign nationals who hadn’t been in China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Ireland, or the European Shengen area in the previous 14 days.
However, travelers who are unwilling to comply with all necessary health and safety requirements, including wearing face masks where required in public and following government mandated social-distancing efforts and testing requirements could be subject to fines or arrest and imprisonment if found guilty.
What kind of safety protocols are in place to travel to Puerto Rico?
As of May 24, fully vaccinated travelers arriving on domestic flights from the mainland United States are no longer required to present negative COVID-19 test results. To obtain a QR code necessary to leave the airport, they must upload their vaccination card to the Puerto Rico Health Department’s online portal and complete a travel declaration form.
Anyone over the age of two who enters the island on an international flight or isn’t fully vaccinated is still required to upload proof of a negative molecular test (nasal or throat swabs) from up to 72 hours prior to the online portal, as well as complete the travel declaration form.
The government will not accept any other type of test, including rapid tests or the antibody ones that require a finger stick or blood drawn. Travelers will also receive an airport exit confirmation number and QR code when uploading their molecular test results to the Puerto Rico Health Department’s online portal.
Arriving passengers who do not have test results available will automatically be issued a $300 fine. That fine will be dismissed if they get tested on the island at their own cost and upload their test results to the online portal within 48 hours after arrival. These travelers are required to self-quarantine while waiting for the results of their test.
If a traveler’s test result is postive, they will be required to quarantine and cover their own medical and extended stay expenses until the Health Department releases them. Those who want to be released from quarantine will have to undergo a molecular test and share the negative results with the government. Those who break quarantine orders will be fined up to $5,000 for the first offense and up to $10,000 for any additional offenses.
People who can produce negative test results upon arrival will be allowed into Puerto Rico without quarantine, but they will need to follow locally mandated rules, including wearing face masks where required in public, or be subjected to fines or arrest. Social distancing is being enforced by limiting capacity at restaurants, museums, and hotel pools.
Are COVID-19 tests required to return to the mainland United States from Puerto Rico?
No. As a U.S. territory, Puerto Rico is excluded from the new CDC order that requires all international passengers flying into the United States—including returning U.S. citizens—to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to boarding.
However, the CDC still recommends that unvaccinated people get tested one to three days before traveling back from Puerto Rico. Upon returning home, the CDC also recommends self-quarantining for seven days and getting tested three to five days after travel. If you don’t get tested, the CDC recommends self-quarantining for 10 days after travel. The CDC asks that vaccinated travelers self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms and isolate and get tested if any develop after their trip.
What airlines have flights to Puerto Rico right now?
Because Puerto Rico never closed its borders, major U.S. airlines continued to fly to and from the island. However, in order to better track people arriving in Puerto Rico, between March 2020 and April 2021, flights were only allowed in and out of San Juan’s Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport.
Rafael Hernández Airport in Aguadilla (BQN) and the Mercedita International Airport in Ponce (PSE) reopened to passenger travel on April 1, 2021. Currently, JetBlue flies to Ponce from Orlando and New York’s JFK airport, while Spirit offers flights to Aguadilla from Orlando, according to Travel Weekly.
How much is actually open in Puerto Rico?
As of May 24, the island-wide curfew is officially being lifted. On the same date, fully vaccinated travelers no longer need to wear masks on beaches and in parks.
Capacity at casinos, museums, and restaurants is being raised from 30 percent to 50 percent on May 24. Pools at hotels and other establishments are also open at 50 percent capacity. Retail shops and malls are open, as long as they operate at 50 percent capacity. While bars remain closed, the ban on consuming alcohol in pools and at beaches is being lifted on May 24, as well. And although restaurants elsewhere on the island must close by 12 a.m., hotel restaurants are being allowed to stay open 24 hours for guests.
Where to stay in Puerto Rico
Many hotels in Puerto Rico stayed open throughout the pandemic for displaced travelers and frontline workers and reopened to local leisure travelers starting in June 2020. Since some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination or negative test results upon arrival, check with your hotel to learn what their protocols are before booking.
The Hyatt Regency Grand Reserve Puerto Rico reopened for nonessential stays on June 2, 2020. In addition to requiring temperature checks and social-distancing measures like touchless check-in and check-out services per Hyatt’s Global Care and Cleanliness Commitment, Hyatt also installed UV light purifying air conditioners in all 579 rooms on the property.
Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve reopened on July 1, 2020. The mostly open-air property is set right on the northern coast of Puerto Rico, a 35-minute drive from San Juan’s Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport. Many of the hotel’s 115 guest rooms come with direct beach access and private plunge pools, making it easier to social distance and limit indoor interactions with other guests. As a Marriott property, Dorado Beach is following health and safety protocols in accordance with Marriott’s Global Cleanliness Council.
The Associated Press contributed to this article. This article originally appeared online on June 26, 2020; it was updated on May 24, 2021, to include current information.
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