Alice Shackelford, the UN representative in Costa Rica, praises Costa Rica for the “exceptional and innovative” way the government promptly responded to the Coronavirus pandemic. Shakelford states, “on behalf of the United Nations System we want the citizens to know that the country is being accompanied to develop this response by the different implementation plans to ensure that no one is left behind.”
Shakelford also applauds the response by Costa Rican President, Carlos Alvarado, “Under the leadership of the President of the Republic (Carlos Alvarado), the Minister of Health (Daniel Salas), the Emergency Operation Center (COE) and all related institutions are truly developing an inter-institutional response and an exemplary articulated response,”
Costa Rica has been making strategic moves to protect the entire population of 5 million people, especially those more vulnerable to Covid-19. Costa Rica is a blue zone with many residents over the age of 100, most of which reside in the Nicoya Peninsula. The Nicoya Peninsula is also a popular tourist destination with places like Tamarindo and Nosara receiving international travelers from all over the globe. Costa Rica also has many expat retirees from all over the world and is frequently listed by International Living as one of the best countries to move to for retirement. Many of these retirees live in the Central Valley which has seen the bulk of the coronavirus cases so far in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica’s first confirmed case of Coronavirus was on Friday, March 6th. The following week, several schools closed as a precautionary measure. And by the following week, the Costa Rican government banned any tourists from coming in the country. Next they shut down all bars and clubs. All within 12 days.
When people in the country continued to party in restaurants and on beaches instead of bars, the Costa Rican government banned all alcohol sales in some beach areas. They also closed popular beaches and national parks. All within 2 weeks. Since then they have closed all beaches in the country. While they have not banned people from leaving their homes, they are limiting the places they can leave home to go.
Costa Rica’s choice to close the doors to international travelers in the middle of high season was a bold move. 13% of Costa Rica’s economy comes from tourism. To compare this to other countries, tourism accounts for 2.8% in the US and 2% in Canada. Costa Rica sees the most tourists from Christmas week until end of April and is a popular destination especially for Spring Breaks and Holy Week (Semana Santa).
Additionally, the Costa Rican government has set up special hours reserved at banks and grocery stores for senior citizens only. The governement is also restricting vehicles and fining anyone who is driving between 10 pm and 5 am, churches and temples are closed until further notice and soccer games and group gatherings are cancelled until further notice.
The government has ordered additional medical supplies to brace for the potential impact on the medical system. Additionally they are encouraging teleworking and looking for ways to encourage people to stay at home.
While Costa Rica has done an exceptional job of protecting it’s citizens and residents, and people in Costa Rica have been commendable at self-isolating and following the rules, coronavirus will continue to permeate the community. If you are looking for a way to help, you can donate to the Beachside Clinic which services patients all the way from Potrero to Tamarindo in the Guanacaste province. The closest hospital to this area is over an hour away.
The Costa Rican government has the attitude of don’t panic, just prepare. Costa Ricans have always embraced the laid back Pura Vida attitude. Literally translated to ‘pure life’ in English, pura vida is a greeting or salutation that translates more closely in English to “this is the life!” And the relaxed Tico style is comforting in times of global chaos.
*Currently there are 201 confirmed Coronavirus cases and 2 fatalities in Costa Rica as of March 25, 2020.