Government skips over Phase 3 and moves to Phase 4 with the reopening of the tourism industry

It’s all about how to balance politics and the opening of the economy with health issues.

With the presidential campaign closing on 2 July, politics is at a peak. As Public Health Minister Rafael Sánchez Cárdenas says: “It is a reality.”

According to Public Health Minister Rafael Sánchez Cárdenas, the best that it can do is monitor how things go in the final days of the election and after the outcome is known, and then take actions “as is happening in the rest of the world.” In the meantime, it will now start to concentrate on kickstarting tourism activities.

The Ministry of Public Health announced the government is skipping Phase 3 of the reopening plan and moving ahead to Phase 4. Phase 3 had contemplated companies being allowed to reinstate 100% of their staff. Phase 4 authorizes the opening of the tourism industry. There are limitations. For instance, restaurants and gyms can open following protocols, not so bars and casinos. Colmadones are allowed to sell liquor, not so serve it on their premises after 8pm.

A version of Resolution 0018 that had circulated on Saturday, 27 June had limited social, recreational and economic activities after 8pm. A press release mentioning this, as of 1 July in the morning was still on the Ministry of Public Health website. As of 1 July, the Ministry of Public Health has not made available online the actual Resolution 0018.

The official version issued on 30 June is much more relaxed, yet still the details of its application are only now being known. Carlos Suero, spokesperson for the Ministry of Public Health has said that restaurants are being allowed to open to 10pm, and afterwards for takeout and delivery. This is reported in El Dia and last night by Diana Lora on Esta Noche con Mariasela.

Public Health Minister Rafael Sanchez Cárdenas says that the government has declared the country to be under an epidemic and announced new measures will be announced as needed. He says Public Health Law 42-01 allows the Ministry of Public Health to do so outside of the National State of Emergency that ended on 30 June 2020.

The announcement means those who said the state of emergency was unnecessary were right. It was all about politics. President Danilo Medina himself would acknowledge that “everything that has happened under the state of emergency worked to benefit the PLD presidential candidate.”

During the press briefing on 30 June 2020, several journalists asked the Minister about the negative example set by President Danilo Medina, who has been seen not wearing a face mask or keeping physical distance rules as he leads activities to close the campaigns of important PLD candidates to Senate positions. Medina’s entry to the campaign at last minute has resulted in party members’ agglomerations in a myriad of new campaigning.

The Public Health Minister announced the extensive protocols for the tourism industry would be available to all, but he did not say where. He said the guidelines establish specific measures for each subsector of the tourism industry that is allowed to reopen.

The Resolution calls for the possible shut down of businesses that violate the protocols.

The Ministry of Public Health says that an increase in the number of cases was to be expected due to the opening of the economy. “We need to understand that while it is true there has been an increase in cases during the opening, the country still has an additional capacity of 40% of hospital beds and 40% of ICU capacity.” He said hospitalization capacity is being expanded to respond to increases in demand as the economy further opens.

“We are advancing and we want the population to understand the health, economic and political and social problems we are living and hope to answer to,” said the Minister.

Journalists insistently asked about the intense political meetings and caravanning to close the 5 July presidential and congressional election campaigns. “The protocols clearly establish what to do. We are against activities that can affect health. Still, at the same time the economy needs to open, and politics is a way all society is expressing itself,” he said, justifying the lenience of the government regarding political campaign violations to health guidelines. “We hope that after 5 July when the next President is known, we can have continuity and better enforcement of the measures to protect the population,” he said.

Resolution 0018 of the Ministry of Public Health bans events that gather large numbers of people indoors and outdoors. These are being held every day as the election campaigns close.

Dr. Sánchez Cárdenas motivated Dominicans to exercise preventive measures and go to vote. He said the Central Electoral Board (JCE) has prepared its protocol to ensure voters’ safety.

Public Health Minister Sánchez Cárdenas says the Dominican Republic is no different than other countries. “We need to cross the 5 July [election day] line and are hoping for the successful celebration of that election and that we can meet the increase in demand for health services that politics may bring,” he said. He said campaigning ends at midnight on 2 July.

The Minister says that by declaring the country under an epidemic as per Public Health Law 42-01, the government can issue new, more stringent measures as they are needed. For instance, he said the Ministry of Public Health could limit flights from any country. But for the time being all flights are allowed from anywhere. There will be temperature checks at the airports. Any passenger with a fever will need to take a rapid blood test.

Mask use and physical distancing continue to be mandatory in the country. Likewise, the Ministry maintains the right to shut down any business found in violation of the norms. And persons in breach could be served fines equal to 1 to 10 minimum wages.

Dr. Sánchez Cárdenas explained that he was told most hotel bookings are canceled. The Dominican Republic will mainly be receiving thousands of Dominicans who were abroad and now want to return to their home country. He did not give details on the restrictions for entry of persons from abroad or health controls that are now in the airport and aviation guidelines that are being applied. The Minister did say the country could put in place flight restrictions in the future.

Read more in Spanish:
El Dia
Ministry of Public Health
Ministry of Public Health press briefing

Ministry of Public Health

1 July 2020