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.
COVID 19 in Costa Rica
Since the beginning of the COVID -19 pandemic in Costa Rica, the local government has taken a very fast and proactive role in managing coronavirus 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 had 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 entered the second wave of the pandemic and since then, the number of daily new cases has hovered around 1000-1500 cases/day. At 19.3 new cases per 100,000 people, Costa Rica has a much lower case rate than that of the United States (54.3), but a slightly higher one compared to Canada (16.6).
COVID 19 death rate in Costa Rica is 1.2%. The average age of Costa Rica’s coronavirus-related deaths is 70 years.
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
In June, Costa Rica put in place a phased reopening plan to help revive the economy across the country. Over the course of the last few months, more and more things have reopened, allowing most commercial activities in the country to reopen.
Costa Rica has reopened its borders on November 1, 2020. Tourists of all nationalities are now welcome to enter Costa Rica via air, including residents of all US states. Overland border crossings from Nicaragua and Panama are still prohibited.
All tourists, regardless of the country of departure, must present the following documents upon arrival in Costa Rica.
- A complete epidemiological Health Form (aka Health Pass) found here.
- Health insurance which covers medical insurance in case of COVID (min $50,000 coverage) and $2,000 coverage for extended hotel stay in case of self-isolation requirements due to a mild COVID case.
Very few international insurance companies offer the right insurance policy for Costa Rica. Two Costa Rican companies: INS and Sagicor are two pre-approved companies. Their policies start from $10/person/day. The other approved option is Trawick International’s Safe Travels Voyager Policy – it is much cheaper, at just $40/person/month, but is only available to US citizens/residents.
Proof of travel insurance must be attached to the Health Pass application and submitted to the Costa Rican government within 48 hours before departure.
This submission will generate a QR code, which is required to be shown at the airport prior to departure and to the Costa Rican border security/immigration upon arrival in the country.
There are currently NO mandatory quarantine requirements for tourists entering Costa Rica.
Mandatory mask requirements have been in place in Costa Rica since June. They apply to all residents and visitors 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
- Inside any public establishment (restaurants, hotels, etc.)
Driving restrictions have been in effect across Costa Rica since March 23. Driving restrictions are in effect based on the last digit of the license plate. Restrictions vary between weekday restrictions and weekend restrictions.
- Monday to Friday: 5 AM to 10 PM – Restrictions Apply
- Saturday to Sunday: 5 AM to 9 PM – Restrictions Apply
On weekdays, there are license plate restrictions.
- 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.
There are no license plate restrictions on weekends. Driving restrictions do not apply to rental cars or those driving to or from work, a hotel, or the airport.
As of December, most commercial establishments can remain open across the country. This includes shops, hotels, restaurants, bars, casinos, salons, beaches, national parks, and all open-air tourist activities. Public transportation is also available.
Generally, all establishments can remain open following the day’s driving restrictions (i.e. until 9pm on weekends and until 10pm on weekdays)
For a list of prohibited activities and establishments go HERE.
New Year’s Eve (December 31)
- Driving restriction from 7 p.m. on December 31 until 5 a.m. on January 1.
- Commercial businesses must also close at 7 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, except for essential services.
January 1, 2 and 3
- Driving restriction from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m.
- Commercial businesses must also close at 8 p.m. on January 1-3, except for essential services.
Rest of January
From January 4-17, some activities will be further limited. These include:
- Beaches will be open from 5 a.m. until 2:30 p.m only
- Bars and casinos will operate at limited capacity of 25%.
- National Parks will limit capacity to 50%.
A slightly stricter vehicular restriction will apply from January 4-31 on the weekends:
- Saturdays: Vehicles with license plates ending in 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 cannot drive.
- Sundays: Vehicles with license plates ending in 0, 2, 4, 6, 8 cannot drive.
- Rental cars and public transport are exempt from these restrictions.
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
What happens if you contract COVID-19 while in Costa Rica?
If you test positive for coronavirus or come into close contact with someone who has, you may be issued a self-isolation order. You will be required to remain at your place of residence (hotel, apartment, etc) until that order is lifted. If you are caught violating a stay-at-home order, you may be detained. You cannot leave the country until the order is lifted.
Call 1322 or 911 if you are experiencing a medical emergency. 1322 is Costa Rica’s coronavirus hotline. Both services are offered in English and Spanish.
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. More than 600,000 people who directly and indirectly make a living from the tourism sector have suffered great losses as a result of the pandemic.
Since November 1, when the country officially reopened to tourism, arrivals into Costa Rica have been at just 20% of what existed before the pandemic.
But it’ll be a long and difficult road to recovery.