By José Antonio Pérez
The Sonora and Arizona state governments have proposed creating a Phoenix – Puerto Peñasco “health corridor” to facilitate mobility during these times of Covid-19.
Luis Núñez Noriega, Director of the Sonora Tourism Promotion Commission (COFETUR), detailed the joint proposal of Governor Claudia Pavlovich and her Arizona counterpart Governor Doug Ducey, is meant to revive tourism gradually and safely under appropriate health protocols.
He noted the “Safety Corridor” between Lukeville, AZ – Puerto Peñasco is already in place, so the foundation is already established. Health protocols would be added to this so that both visitors, as well as those receiving visitors, can be certain that all are free of Covid-19.
The COFETUR Director remarked prevention measures would have to be established to guarantee those who travel this route of no health problems in either border state.
“We want to incorporate health into this corridor, or rather guarantee that tourists who come from Arizona to Puerto Peñasco are certain of being coronavirus free and able to travel and be monitored, not just when leaving the U.S. but also when entering Puerto Peñasco,” he explained.
This way, tourism providers would also have a sense of security they are receiving visitors that are not positive for the novel coronavirus or spreading the virus. Núñez Noriega emphasized that tourism represents 7% of the gross domestic product for the region.
Governors from both border states have called for preparedness through use of models that would provide successful certification and monitoring. Among these proposals is the possibility of having a type of “health card”, which could be issued in Arizona and accepted by authorities in Puerto Peñasco and Sonora in general. This would provide the opportunity to replace the idea of rapid tests with that of a physical health checkpoint, providing monitoring prior to entering Puerto Peñasco. This has yet to be decided.
Puerto Peñasco mayor Ernesto Kiko Munro reported he participated in a virtual video conference with authorities from both Sonora and Arizona, as well as members of the Business Advisory Board and scientists from the Food and Development Research Center, and expressed their interest in establishing necessarily protocols so the Safety Corridor may also become known as a Heath Corridor, which could become a way to promote visiting both sides of the border. If the model is successful, it could be replicated in other areas as a way to revive the economy while taking into account and adapting to Federal public policies.
Sonora -Arizona Commission Director Yamilett Martínez detailed meetings to be held in coming days with the Health, Safety, and Transportation committees will work on standardizing health protocol that could be applied to the tourist sector including hotels, restaurants, and service providers.
The reopening of restaurants (for dine-in service) and hotels in Puerto Peñasco is estimated for the second and third phases of the city’s reactivation plan, respectively. If all Phase I goals are met, restaurants may begin to incorporate dine-in service on June 1st when Phase II begins, while hotels and welcoming of outside visitors would take place on June 16th. In both cases, restaurants and hotels would reopen at 40% capacity and under strict health protocols while preventing large gatherings and ensuring safe distancing.