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Can the local economy protect itself from the rise in COVID-19 cases?

With the reopening of external tourism through the International Airport Luis Muñoz Marín and the arrival of thousands of visitors to the island in response to the rise of positive cases of COVID-19 in Puerto Rico, we spoke with economist Vicente Feliciano, a member of the Economic Task Force and of our board of directors, about the economic outlook facing the island and how we can respond responsibly.

According to the data collected, it is estimated that for last April there was an economic contraction of around $100 million per week. This represents the impact of the pandemic and the restriction measures both in Puerto Rico and the rest of the world, among other elements established to prevent the spread of the virus. In contrast, at the beginning of the pandemic, slight growth in the economy was reported for the month of June due to an increase in demand and flexibility in restrictions. For example, car sales in June 2020 exceeded those of 2019, probably due to accumulated demand from March to May. 

Analyzing the framework of the rise in COVID-19 cases in Puerto Rico, Feliciano assures that “the most important thing is to base everything on data” to anticipate and identify a major problem in the management of the virus. In Puerto Rico, according to the economist, the pandemic has not created a crisis in the island, but we must carefully observe its growth trend.

Given the current situation, Feliciano recommends taking action where the likelihood of contagion is greatest and “starting to use more statistics”. It is important to have reliable and accurate data to determine which parameters would be effective to implement at the various visitor management points. 

Regarding the control of the airport, the economist says that “it is impossible to live in Puerto Rico without having passenger movement. It’s on how we manage it.” That is why a series of security measures, including the initiation of a biological border, have been put in place to ensure the well-being of residents and visitors to Puerto Rico. It is also important to remember that the landscape related to the virus changes dynamically and we have the opportunity to improve protocols and technology every day: “For now, given the dynamics of the virus and how things are changing day by day, it is not operationally viable [the biological border]. Maybe four weeks from now, yes, but we have to be ready for whenever that is.”

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