Since December 2019, Coronavirus (COVID-19), a severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), has been spreading worldwide, affecting the lives and wellbeing of millions of people around the world. The first case of COVID 19 in Costa Rica was confirmed on March 6, 2020, and the virus has been circulating in the country ever since.
In mid-March, as countries around the world closed their borders and encouraged their citizens to go into self-isolation, we flew back to our home base in Playa Avellanas, Costa Rica and have been watching the situation with coronavirus in Costa Rica unfold from the safety of Max’s family home.
COVID 19 in Costa Rica
Since the beginning of COVID 19 pandemic in Costa Rica, the local government has taken a very fast and proactive role in managing COVID 19 in the country. They closed schools, prohibited mass gatherings, shut all non-essential businesses, and closed the borders within just 10 days of the first case being confirmed in the country.
A few months into the pandemic, Costa Rica has been praised for being one of the most successful nations in the fight against Coronavirus. The country has the lowest death rate in all of Latin America and has been one of the most successful at flattening the curve.
However, since the start of the reopening, new daily cases in Costa Rica have been going up. In June, the country officially entered the second wave of the pandemic.
As of June 28, 2020, Costa Rica has reported the following COVID 19 statistics:
- 2979 confirmed cases, with an age range of 0 to 89 years of whom 1112 are Costa Rican and 349 foreigners
- 15 deaths
- 1325 total recoveries
- 1641 known active cases
- 39,460 completed tests
For the most up to date information on the number of cases, you can visit the Ministry of Health Facebook.
COVID 19 in Costa Rica: Current Situation
Costa Rica is currently in Phase 3 of a 4 Phase Reopening Plan that was laid out by the government in May.
Phase 2 commenced on June 1
Phase 3 commenced on June 27 (one week behind the original schedule laid out below). This does not apply to the entire country. See the below map for exceptions.
Degrees of Reopening
It is important to note that not all parts of the county have commenced with Phase 3. The below map outlines the different alert levels across the country.
Orange Alert – applies to the cantons with significantly increased COVID 19 activity. Economic activity in these regions is significantly reduced to pre-phase 2 levels. These cantons are subject to stricter vehicle restriction from Monday to Sunday from 5 pm to 5 am (compared to 10 pm- 5am in the rest of the country) and limited operating hours for businesses. Commercial businesses can only operate from 5 am – 5 pm on weekdays.
Yellow Alert: Phase 2 – applies to cantons with increased COVID 19 activity marked in dark yellow. In these cantons, commercial businesses (stores, theatres, museums, etc) must remain closed on weekends, and religious gatherings aren’t allowed. Driving restrictions in these areas are from 10 pm to 5 am
Yellow Alert: Phase 3 – applies to the majority of the country. Details below.
As of June 27, 2020, the following activities and services are opened and allowed in areas across the country marked in light yellow on the above map.
- All hotels and restaurants (at 50% capacity), including on weekends.
- Beaches opened every day from 5 am to 9:30 am
- Most National Parks across the country are opened and operating at 50% capacity, although Not all attractions or sectors at these parks have reopened. Opened National Parks include:
- Irazú Volcano, Poás Volcano, Guayabo, Braulio Carrillo, Carara, Corcovado, Manuel Antonio, Cahuita, Arenal, Rincón de la Vieja, Los Quetzales, Tapantí, and Monteverde (opened on May 18th)
- Santa Rosa, Tortuguero, Tenorio, Isla del Coco, Barra Honda, Diriá, Las Baulas, Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, Cipanci Wildlife Refuge, Ostional Wildlife Refuge, Camaronal Wildlife Refuge, Iguanita Wildlife Refuge, Cabo Blanco Absolute Nature Reserve, Grecia Forest Reserve (Bosque del Niño), Monte Alto Protected Zone (opened on June 1st).
- Museums, art academies, gyms, swim schools are opened (at 50% capacity)
- Bars continue to be closed
- Commercial centres and most stores can now operate both during the week and on the weekend at 50% capacity.
- Beauty salons, barbershops (at 50% capacity)
- Event spaces, max 30 people (at 50% capacity)
- Churches can hold services with capacity limits
- Non-contact and individual recreational sports / athletic training is permitted. High-contact sports are permitted, without spectators
- Driving restrictions are in effect (see below).
- Public transportation, including buses and trains, can operate. Taxis can operate at all hours of every day.
NOTE: Costa Rican borders have been closed since March 18th. Residents and Citizens are allowed to enter provided they adhere to a 14-day quarantine. Foreigners who entered Costa Rica on a tourist visaafter December 17, 2019 can legally remain in Costa Rica until August 18, 2020.
In late June, the government announced a tentative border reopening set for August 1. It is said that borders will reopen to selected nationalities only. There has been no official announcement about which nationalities will be allowed into Costa Rica, but the Costa Rica Tourism Board proposed EU, UK and Canada.
NEW: Mask Requirements
On June 27th, mandatory mask requirements have also been put into place. They apply to all residents and are required in many public situations, including:
- Any employee interacting with the public (e.g. waiters, bank tellers, public transport drivers, etc)
- Drivers and the public using public transport (e.g. buses, taxis)
- Officiants and guests at religious services
- In theatres and cinemas
- Anyone visiting a health center, prison, drug or alcohol treatment center, or centers caring for at-risk populations
- For caretakers attending to the elderly or those with disabilities, especially at nursing homes or residential alternatives
- Call-center employees who share cubicles
- Customers at banks
Below are the projected reopenings as outlined by the Ministry of Health back in June. These plans will be confirmed closer to the date depending on the status of COVID 19 in Costa Rica.
Phase 4: July 13 to August 2 (tentative)
- Contact sports with spectators (20% capacity)
- All Beaches are due to reopen with social distancing
August 1: International Border Reopening
COVID 19 in Costa Rica: Timeline of Events
- March 6, 2020: 1st case in Costa Rica confirmed.
- March 9, 2020: Mass gatherings are suspended, employees are told to work from home
- March 16, 2020: Costa Rica declares the State of Emergency. All in-person education is suspended.
- March 18, 2020: Costa Rican borders close to international arrivals. Residents and citizens arriving in the country must quarantine for 14 days.
- March 23, 2020: Beaches and National Parks are closed. Temples and religious services are suspended. Vehicle restrictions come into effect. Driving is not permitted between 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.
- April 4-12, 2020: Significant travel restrictions come into effect during Semana Santa. Driving is only permitted 2-3 days/week according to your license plate.
- May 1, 2020: Costa Rica begins easing COVID 19 measures. Some shops, gyms, swim schools, theatres, and beauty services begin some operations. Beaches and National Parks remain closed.
- May 18, 2020: Beaches reopen with limited hours. 12 National Parks & Monteverde Reserve reopen at 50% capacity.
- June 1, 2020: 15 Protected Wildlife Areas are reopened. Additional restrictions are eased.
- June 25, 2020: Costa Rica reports 169 new cases in one day, a record number for the country.
- June 27, 2020: The Government announced a further easing of restrictions, putting the majority of the country into Phase 3.
Driving restrictions have been in effect across Costa Rica since March 23 and are set to continue until further notice. Driving restrictions are in effect based on the last digit of the license plate. Restrictions vary between weekday restrictions and weekend restrictions.
The following weekday restrictions are currently in effect across the country. Driving is permitted between the hours of 5 am and 10 pm
- Mondays: Vehicles with license plates ending in 1 and 2 cannot drive. Vehicles with license plates ending in all other numbers can drive freely.
- Tuesdays: Vehicles with license plates ending in 3 and 4 cannot drive. Vehicles with license plates ending in all other numbers can drive freely.
- Wednesdays: Vehicles with license plates ending in 5 and 6 cannot drive. Vehicles with license plates ending in all other numbers can drive freely.
- Thursdays: Vehicles with license plates ending in 7 and 8 cannot drive. Vehicles with license plates ending in all other numbers can drive freely.
- Fridays: Vehicles with license plates ending in 9 and 0 cannot drive. Vehicles with license plates ending in all other numbers can drive freely.
The following weekend restrictions are enforced. Driving is permitted between the hours of 5 am and 7 pm
- Saturdays: Vehicles with license plates ending in even numbers cannot drive. Vehicles with license plates ending in an odd number can drive to establishments that have been permitted to operate by the Health Ministry (e.g. supermarkets, pharmacies, gyms, health centers, hotels).
- Sundays: Vehicles with license plates ending in odd numbers cannot drive. Vehicles with license plates ending in an even number can drive to establishments that have been permitted to operate by the Health Ministry.
COVID 19 in Costa Rica: General Rules
The Health Ministry asked all residents to observe and adhere to a number of general rules as it pertains to COVID 19.
- No one with a cold or flu, or with respiratory symptoms, should leave the house.
- People with high-risk factors should avoid going to public places.
- While in public, maintain a distance of 1.8 meters (6 feet) between anyone not in your “social bubble.”
- Do not touch your face in public without first washing your hands.
- Do not sing, shout or speak loudly in public.
- Wear face masks, especially on public transportation or if remaining in a public place for more than 15 minutes.
- If possible, take the temperature of patrons before allowing them into an establishment
COVID 19 & Costa Rican the Economy
As with everywhere in the world, COVID 19 has had a devastating impact on the Costa Rican economy, particularly as it affected tourism, one of the largest segments of the local economy. According to the Central Bank of Costa Rica (BCCR), Costa Rica’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is expected to decrease by 3.6% due to the COVID-19 pandemic with hundreds of thousands of locals being impacted by the loss of jobs in the tourism sector.
Today, the Costa Rican government is putting the focus on domestic travel in an attempt to revive the tourism sector. But as the borders continue to stay closed, without international tourism, it’ll be a long and difficult road to recovery.
This is a developing story, so we’ll do our best to keep this post updated with the latest updates from the ground here in Costa Rica.