By Agence France-Presse
The US territory of Puerto Rico on Sunday ordered a 9:00 pm to 5:00 am curfew to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, the strongest measure yet taken on American soil.
It took effect immediately and lasts until March 30.
“Faced with the possibility of transmission and propagation of the virus, I have ordered the imposition of a curfew for all residents of Puerto Rico,” Governor Wanda Vazquez announced in a video message.
“We must take every precaution to ensure that we do not become potential carriers,” Vazquez said.
The Caribbean territory of 2.9 million, whose residents are US citizens, also will close many businesses from Sunday until the end of the month, she said.
That includes malls, movie theaters, concert venues, gyms, bars and other businesses that bring together large crowds on the island popular with tourists.
The exceptions will be businesses in the food supply chain, and in the medical care system, as well as drugstores, gas stations, banks and senior citizens’ group homes.
At night, only those who are providing or receiving medical care, or carrying out essential duties, will be allowed to be on Puerto Rico’s streets.
Anyone defying the curfew faces a six-month jail term and a fine of up to $5,000.
The island declared a state of emergency when its first cases were reported March 12. The island has reported five cases.
On Friday, Vazquez accepted the resignation of Health Secretary Rafael Rodriguez Mercado, who was under fire for his handling the coronavirus emergency.
Recently, island residents were irate when two warehouses were found to be filled with abandoned supplies, apparently never used after Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.
The storms’ one-two punch left Puerto Ricans without power for months and killed nearly 3,000 people, according to the local government’s official numbers.
President Donald Trump has accused the Puerto Rican government of incompetence and siphoning off hurricane relief money.
The Puerto Rican leaders accused Trump of treating the population of the island like second class citizens.