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  • Writer's picturePamela Brusa

How Is Costa Rica Handling COVID-19 Lockdown?

At the time of writing this, there have been 1,342 confirmed cases and 10 deaths from COVID-19 in Costa Rica. This small country was a major hub of international travel and it’s likely this is part of the reason for the high number of cases.

But how is the country handling lockdown during the Coronavirus crisis? Here is just an overview from Costa Rica during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Stranded Tourists

During the COVID-19 crisis, the Costa Rican government acted quickly when the first cases were reported on March 18th.

The whole country was put on lockdown and borders were closed, leaving hundreds of tourists stranded on the beach and in remote national parks around the county. Some were able to get busses back to San Jose City and various embassies managed to get others on flights home. But two months later some tourists are still stuck in Costa Rica.

Dry Law

Within two weeks of the lockdown, a partial ban on alcohol was declared. For many people, this has been the hardest part of the lockdown. A life stuck indoors is bad enough, removing alcohol seems almost cruel.

But no dry law would be complete without bootleggers and the black market. People turned to social media and apps like WhatsApp to get alcohol. It was a risky business but also lucrative. There were allegedly big markups on the price and delivery cost.

At the time of writing, it’s June and the dry law has been lifted. People can buy alcohol at the supermarket and liquor stores without restrictions.

Daytime Car Restrictions

Vehicle transit on all roads is restricted between 10:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. Monday to Friday and 7:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. on weekends except for emergency personnel and media.

Except if your license plate corresponds with a restriction that day. The restrictions are as follows:

Monday – vehicles with plates ending with 1 or 2 cannot drive.

Tuesday – vehicles with plates ending with 3 or 4 cannot drive.

Wednesday – vehicles with plates ending with 5 or 6 cannot drive.

Thursday – vehicles with plates ending with 7 or 8 cannot drive.

Friday – vehicles with plates ending with 9 or 0 cannot drive.

Weekend Restrictions

Vehicles are permitted on Costa Rica’s roads only to go to the grocery store, pharmacy, health center, salon, auto-parts retailer, auto mechanic). Those that travel during this time will be able to do so only on one day of the weekend between the hours of 5:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.

From May 11, there was an exception for driving on the weekend. If you have proof of a hotel reservation, you can drive on a restricted weekend day.

Here is the schedule.

Saturday – vehicles with plates ending in 1, 3, 5, 7, or 9 are permitted to drive.

Sunday – vehicles with plates ending in 0, 2, 4, 6, or 8 are permitted to drive.

The punishment for breaking this law was severe. First offenders would have to pay US$120 or perform community service. Repeat offenders would go to jail.

During the height of the lockdown, people were allowed to leave their house for a maximum of 2 hours.

How Have The People Been Coping?

Mostly, people have coped well. Many, people have obeyed the lockdown measures. The end of the dry law bought some people to the streets celebrating and drinking. However, the threat of re-invoking the dry law ended these gatherings quite fast.

Communities have come together to support the people who need help. Charity workers have been delivering food and supplies to vulnerable citizens. Just like everywhere around the world, people are cautious about the future. But they also eager to get back to work and see their friends again.

Specific Actions Taken

Since February, Costa Rica has had the proper laboratory test for diagnosing COVID-19. All government testing has been through, the country’s Center for Disease Investigation. As of March 31, several private hospitals around the country have been permitted to start testing patients for COVID-19.

A new telephone hotline (1322) was put in place on March 13. This line is dedicated to Coronavirus consultations to free up the 911 service that was previously being used. 911 remains available for other emergencies.

As of March 15, the health department has ordered the closure of all bars, nightclubs, casinos, and amusement park

Looking to The Future

Costa Rica has a plan to reopen the country in stages, or as they are calling it, phases.

The first phase included ending the dry law and public sector construction workers returning to their jobs. Some factories will also reopen.

The segregation will end, and people can now leave their homes for as long as they like during the day. The evening curfew will remain in place.

Churches and other places of worship will be allowed to reopen but not to full capacity. Parks will be opened up for exercise but distancing of 2 meters is required.

Phase 3 will see car showrooms, shops, and malls reopen. Professional workers can return to the office and private sector construction workers.

Phase 4 is when airports, restaurants, and hotels will be allowed to reopen.

Finally, in Phase 5 life will return to something like normal. Sports leagues, recreational travel, schools, and bars will all be allowed.

Phase 6 is when Costa Rica can enjoy festivals and concerts again. However, that could be a very long way into the future.

There is currently no timeline on when the various phases will begin. The general feeling is that each block will be a month apart, but it’s dependent on what the virus does.

Preparing For A Second Wave Shutdown

Many lessons have been learned about what we can expect if the second wave does appear.

The first is that a dry law is almost certain. SO, it is wise to start stocking up on bottles of rum and cases of wine now.

Also, it is important to start investing in an extra source of income!


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