Governor Wanda Vázquez informed today that the island-wide lockdown and curfew will be extended until Sunday, April 12, with stricter measures to come.
The governor, flanked by members of her cabinet and the medical task force created to address the coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency, indicated that on March 31 a new executive order will come into effect to further mitigate the spread of the infection that has taken the lives of more than 22,000 people worldwide.
Apart from the lockdown, which only allows for certain businesses to operate, from March 31 to April 12 residents will be forced to stay in their homes from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. The current curfew begins at 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. Moreover, supermarkets must remain closed on Sundays.
In addition, traffic will be curtailed by a special schedule determined by license plates. People who are not working and need to leave their homes to make purchases need to check the last number on their car's license plate. If it ends on 0, 2, 4, 6 or 8 they can only go out on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. If the last number is 1, 3, 5, 7 or 9, they can leave on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. On Sunday, everyone can drive.
This limitation does not apply to people who are working in any of the businesses deemed to provide essential services, such as call centers, restaurants, drugstores, supermarkets, convenience stores, hospitals, health centers, among others.
Vázquez also announced that Dr. Lorenzo González Feliciano will serve as Puerto Rico's new secretary of the Department of Health, following the resignations of the former secretary last week and the interim secretary. González Feliciano previously occupied that same position under the Luis Fortuño administration.
The press conference, held at La Fortaleza, was scheduled to begin at 4:45 p.m. but began at 5:39 p.m., nearly an hour later. During her statement, the governor said that people who present the symptoms associated with coronavirus can call a helpline at (787) 999-6202.
Presently, there are 64 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the island and there are 335 pending cases, but experts estimate that the real number of people with this infection could be up to 600.
The medical task force submitted their recommendations to slow the spread of the infection earlier today. Dr. Segundo Rodríguez, who leads this group of health professionals, had previously announced that he would recommend an extension of the current lockdown, which began on March 15.
"We are not doctors. They have the expertise, they have the knowledge," Vázquez affirmed as uncertainty looms among workers and businesses over layoffs and a lack of income or revenue.
Later on it was revealed that the State epidemiologist, Carmen Deseda, will no longer work in the Department of Health. Her resignation comes at a time when epidemiologists in the island denounced that she did not meet the criteria to perform her duties, urging the governor to consider her dismissal.