Coronavirus – COVID-19. The virus that was declared a global pandemic on March 11, 2020 by the World Health Organization has rapidly reached all corners of the world, including Costa Rica.
On March 6, 2020, Costa Rica confirmed their first case of COVID-19. It was an imported case by an American woman who had previously visited Italy and Tunisia before entering Costa Rica on February 29th, 2020. She tested positive as well as her husband who was asymptomatic and both were put into isolation. On March 7, 2020, Costa Rica had a total of 5 confirmed cases.
Here is what you need to know about the Costa Rica coronavirus situation.
Costa Rica COVID-19 Confirmed Cases
As of July 12, 2020, Costa Rica has 7596 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
- 365 new cases today
- 30 fatalities (2 today)
- 5327 active cases
- 2339 recovered
- 3273 women, 4323 men
- 140 people hospitalized, 27 of those in ICU
- 40,118 discarded tests
- 57,745 total tests
- Age range of a newborn baby to 96 years of total cases
- The first fatality was on March 18, 2020
- 18 fatalities were men and 12 were woman, ages 26 – 92.
- 2243 foreigners, 5353 Costa Ricans
On July 2, the government announced that there is officially community transmission in the Central Valley.
This post is updated every 24 hours in the afternoon after the nation wide press conference.
When Will Costa Rica Open Their Borders?
Costa Rica closed their borders on March 18, 2020. The Costa Rican border is now set to open August 1, 2020. On that date, the government will plan to allow foreigners from countries with low COVID-19 transmission rates to enter. They have not announced which countries those are or any regulations yet so we do not know, nobody knows until the government makes this announcement. I will update this post once they do.
Until then, only residents and citizens may enter the country right now and they must take a COVID-19 test upon arrival and quarantine for 14 days. The border is closed via land, sea and air.
Costa Rica Travel Restrictions
If you plan to travel to Costa Rica when the border is open again, please follow the regulations of Costa Rica when they put any into place. Please also check the recommendations for international travel of your home country.
Currently, the Costa Rican government hasn’t made any announcements regarding regulations for foreigners entering the country so we’re not sure if they will require a mandatory 14 day quarantine, a negative test upon arrival or what they plan to do. Once they make announcements, I’ll update this post.
Rescheduling Your Trip
If you had to reschedule your trip but not sure for when, the following posts will help you decide.
May 16, 2020 Phase 1 Regulations
- Driving allowed 5 AM to 10 PM Mon – Fri. 5 AM to 7 PM on weekends.
- Beaches open 5-8 AM Mon – Fri. Closed on weekends.
- National parks can open with 50% maximum capacity and tickets must be purchased beforehand. These are national parks Poas, Rincon de la Vieja, Arenal, Cahuita, Guayabo, Braulio Carrillo, Carara, Corcovado, Manuel Antonio, Los Quetzales, Tapanti and Monteverde reserves.
- Recreational physical activity without contact allowed
- High performance contact sports without spectators allowed
- Hotels of maximum 20 rooms can operate with 50% maximum capacity
June 1 – 19, 2020 Phase 2 Regulations
- Restaurants allowed 50% maximum capacity now also on weekends
- Rest of the hotels 50% maximum capacity
- Museums 50% with pre-purchased tickets
- Events with less than 30 people (capacity 50% max)
- Gyms and swim schools at 50%
- Art schools without contact 50%
- 15 more national parks and reserves
June 27 – July 10, 2020 Phase 3 Regulations
The Costa Rican border is now set to open August 1, 2020 allowing visitors from countries with low transmission rates only. Phase 3 is allowed only for areas that are not in Alerta Naranja.
- Stores can open to 50% maximum capacity
- Cinemas and theaters open to 50% capacity with pre-purchased tickets
- Bars 50%
- Religious centers like churches can open with maximum of 75 occupants (respecting the 1.8 meter distancing)
- Sport centers without contact 50%
- Beaches open 5 AM to 930 AM, seven days a week
July 11 through July 19, 2020 New Temporary Conditions
Due to the rise in cases, the government has put further restrictions for the time period of July 11 through July 19th, focusing on the GAM (Gran área metropolitana) or the Greater Metropolitan Area. The following areas are under Alerta Naranja. The rest of the country is under Alerta Amarilla and continues in Phase 3.
San José: San Jose, Escazu, Desamperados, Aserri, Mora, Goicoechea, Santa Ana, Alajuelita, Vasquez de Coronado, Tibas, Montes de Oca and Curridabat. Outside GAM: Puriscal
Alajuela: Alajuela, Poas, Atenas, Sarchi, Palmares, Naranjo and Zarcero. Outside GAM: Upala, Guatuso, Los Chiles. Sector sureste del distrito de la Fortuna de San Carlos (Comunidades de Tres Esquinas, Los Ángeles, Sonafluca, La Perla, San Isidro, El Tanque, San Jorge, Santa Cecilia). Comunidades de La Vega and the community of Bonanza del distrito de Florencia in el cantón of San Carlos.
Heredia: Heredia, Santo Domingo, Barva, San Rafael, San Isidro, Belen, Flores and San Pablo
Puntarenas: Golfito, Garrabito,Puntarenas (except the districts of Cobano, Lepanto, Monteverde, Isla Chira, Isla Caballo, Isla San Lucas, Isla del Coco and Isla Venado) and Corredores.
Cartago: Cartago, Paraiso, La Unión, Alvarado, Oreamuno, El Guarco
Guanacaste: Bagaces, Liberia, Carillo and Cañas
Limón: Pococí, Talamanca and Guacimo.
During the period from July 11- 19, areas under Alerta Naranja have the following driving restrictions. Essential services count as supermarkets, pharmacies and health/medical centers.
- MONDAY – FRIDAY: 24 hour driving restriction. (Applies to July 13 through 17)
- Monday: Vehicles with license plates ending in 1 and 2 may drive only for essential services.
- Tuesday: License plates ending in 3 and 4 may drive for essential services.
- Wednesday: License plates ending in 5 and 6 may drive to essential services only.
- Thursday: License plates ending in 7 and 8 may drive to essential services only.
- Friday: License plates ending in 9 and 0 may drive to essential services only.
- SATURDAY AND SUNDAY: May drive from 5 AM to 5 PM. (Applies to July 11, 12, 18 and 19)
- Vehicles with license plates ending in an odd number may drive on Saturday to essential services only.
- Vehicles with license plates ending in an even number may drive on Sunday to essential services only.
Exception: Workers are allowed to drive to their work places with a proof of employment (letter from their boss). Public transport can operate to only a 20% capacity and taxis can operate without restriction. Non-essential businesses in Orange Alert cannot operate during this time either.
Phase 4 New Regulations Postponed. Will update when in effect
- Beaches with social distancing
- Religious centers like churches can open with maximum of 100 occupants (respecting the 1.8 meter distancing)
- Public parks open
Costa Rica Coronavirus Driving Restrictions
**July 11-19 we have new driving restrictions which is mentioned in the sections above. **
Normally, the driving restriction hours are 10 PM to 5 AM Monday to Friday and 7 PM to 5 AM on weekends.Only essential workers allowed and they must have a letter from their employer. If you have a doctor’s appointment or medical emergency, you may drive. Now with most hotels and restaurants open, if you have a hotel reservation, you can also drive during restricted times (need to have your reservation with you to show the officer if you get pulled over).
If caught driving outside permitted hours, they issue you a hefty ticket, write demerits on your record and remove your license plates (which is a pain in the butt to get back).
Here are the other regulations.
- Monday – Vehicles with last license plate digit ending in 1 and 2 can’t drive.
- Tuesday: Vehicles with last license plate digit ending in 3 and 4 can’t drive.
- Wednesday: Vehicles with last license plate digit ending in 5 and 6 can’t drive.
- Thursday: Vehicles with last license plate digit ending in 7 and 8 can’t drive.
- Friday: Vehicles with last license plate digit ending in 9 and 0 can’t drive.
- Saturday: Vehicles with last license plate digit ending in an even number can’t drive
- Sunday: Vehicles with last license plate digit ending in an odd number can’t drive.
Costa Rica Coronavirus Cases Locations
There are confirmed coronavirus cases in all seven provinces in Costa Rica, the most being in the San Jose province.
Costa Rica has a population of roughly 5.09 million.
Measures Costa Rica Has Taken Against Coronavirus
- On March 9, 2020, Costa Rica suspended all large gatherings and started encouraging working from home.
- Costa Rica declared a state of emergency on March 16, 2020.
- On March 18, 2020, Costa Rica closed their borders to all foreigners, applying to land, sea and air. Only citizens and residents are allowed to enter and they must do a 14 day quarantine.
- At the same time, Costa Rica canceled all in-person school.
- Costa Rica has closed all bars. Some supermarkets allow only 1 family member at a time and have specified shopping hours for the elderly.
- On the weekend of March 21, 2020, all beaches, national parks and public spaces closed.
- Driving restrictions were put in place beginning of April. See above for driving restrictions.
The government gives a press conferences everyday with the Minister of Health, Daniel Salas, reporting new number of cases and giving new information about COVID-19. The president, Carlos Alvarado sometimes joins when he announces major news and regulations (like border closing, etc.).
Is There a Lockdown or Mandatory Quarantine in Costa Rica?
No. Since the beginning, there has never been a country wide lock down in Costa Rica. Costa Rica can’t put something like that in place so the government stresses the importance of staying at home and social distancing. People can still go outside as they please with proper social distancing. Police won’t give you a ticket for being outside but they will give you a ticket for going to the closed places (like beaches), gathering in large groups or breaking the driving restriction.
Where to Get Information About Coronavirus in Costa Rica
Please check the Ministerio de Salud’s (ministry of health) website for the latest up to date information about coronavirus in Costa Rica. For news, check Teletica, the main local news channel in Costa Rica. Both in Spanish, so if you need to, you can use Google Translate. They have also created a website specifically for COVID-19 in Costa Rica (covid19.go.cr) including sanitary measures, news and more.
Please only use these credible sites for information (I know it’s a little ironic since I’m writing a blog post about it but we only check those sites and we watch the press conference everyday. All information I have gathered on this blog post is straight from the Ministry of Health’s website.) The Ministerio de Salud and Teletica also post constantly on their Facebook page and do live videos of their press conferences.
Do You Need to Wear a Mask in Costa Rica?
Yes. Costa Rica requires masks for the general public when in supermarkets, convenience stores, stores, public buses, shuttles, trains, theaters, movie theaters, churches, banks, offices and for all public and commercial workers. Likewise, establishments may prohibit anyone from entering if not wearing a masks. You don’t have to wear a mask when walking outside on the street as long as you are 1.8 meters (6 feet) apart from other people.
Costa Rica Has Taken the Coronavirus Situation Seriously
- Since the first confirmed case, the government began playing informative ads on TV for proper social distancing and public hygiene practices. They also play short inspirational pieces to boost moral (#estopasara).
- Costa Rica has implemented a 24/7 coronavirus hot line
- Costa Rica created a hospital specifically for COVID-19 patients a couple weeks after the first confirmed case.
- The CAJA (Costa Rica’s social security system) has done majority of the testing. They will also provide treatment to uninsured Costa Ricans and foreigners.
- Costa Rica will start trying to make their own testing kits so they don’t need to purchase or rely on other countries.
Is Costa Rica Flattening the Curve?
Costa Rica has focused on prevention since the very beginning. Looking at this graph, Costa Rica flattened the curve for the most part for the first wave, preventing the overwhelming of the health care system in the country since the virus entered the country.
In April, Costa Rica saw mostly a daily increase of single digit confirmed cases in Costa Rica. For example, on April 19, Costa Rica received 5 more confirmed cases. On April 27, 2020, Costa Rica received only 2 more confirmed cases. On May 4, 2020, Costa Rica confirmed just 3 more cases.
However, since around mid May, the cases have started going up in great amounts. In July, we hit the highest number of daily confirmed cases at 649 on the 9th. We are now, according to the government in the second wave which is considerably stronger than the first one.
Unfortunately even with the closing of the border, there are many problems with the neighboring country up north, Nicaragua, which is now only beginning to report confirmed cases. Sadly, their government has not put in any measures to contain the virus and they do have community transmission with thousands of cases (no one really knows how many Nicaragua has exactly since they never tracked it). Despite the border being closed, they have continued to enter Costa Rica despite the border closure as it is impossible to cover the 300 something kilometers of border.
What It’s Been Like Where We Live
We live in Guanacaste in the Tamarindo area. Since this area depends pretty much purely on tourism for its livelihood and has a huge mix of foreigners and locals, Tamarindo is empty.
Many businesses closed their doors back end of March and April since there are no tourists. Now that restaurants can open 7 days a week with 50% maximum capacity and social distancing (for those in Phase 3), some but not all are open for dine in. We just recently went for lunch at Witch’s Rock beach front restaurant and there were 3 other tables. It was the first time we ate out in 3 months!
However, Tamarindo is still very empty and at night, it still looks like a ghost town. Some places are open such as Mercadito and a few restaurants for dine-in. We went to Mercadito last week and were the only guests there.
In Villarreal, the small local town outside of Tamarindo, it’s more lively. Locals are still out and about, going to work, walking to the supermarket. Social distancing is not that well practiced and you’ll see groups of people hanging out and talking on the street corners, friends walking their dogs together or having a beer in the parking lot.
Huacas, the town at the intersection between Conchal and Tamarindo is also just as lively with barber shops, bakeries, local restaurants and fried chicken places full of people.
Other Places in Costa Rica
We have friends and family throughout Costa Rica. Yeison’s brother lives in Playas del Coco and the town is empty as well since it also depends heavily on tourism. There are still people out and about but for the most part, it’s very quiet.
Yeison’s family in San Jose and Heredia is healthy and safe. Many of his family members work for the government and the ones that can, are working from home. But the streets of San Jose and Heredia are still going on as usual, not many people strongly practicing social distancing but at least now wearing masks inside establishments.
Jobs in Costa Rica
Some Costa Ricans who live and work in tourism on the coasts have had to go back to San Jose to find jobs. The reason they go back to San Jose is that you can find all the call centers of big companies like Amazon. Customer service call centers are a huge part of Costa Rica’s economy and Amazon has actually been hiring a lot of people lately because they’re getting a lot of demand for customer service. There have been a couple of other companies opening up positions for call center agents in the city.
I have also seen on the news that some companies that began during the pandemic, such as companies that make mask and hand sanitizer have started hiring people as there is a high demand for these products.
We watch the news every night as they do reports on the situation in various parts of the country. Quepos, Monteverde and La Fortuna are very similar to Tamarindo with empty streets and boarded up businesses as they depend on foreign tourism for their economy.
Farmers have also been impacted by the border closure. Places like Poas and Poasito, famous for their delicious strawberries are now selling them super cheap because there are no tourists to sell to and there is an excess of produce. Fishermen are having an especially rough time as they mostly sell their catch to restaurants and hotels. Thankfully, many restaurants and individuals have come together to create food banks, helping those that have lost their jobs and live in poverty.
Toilet Paper Hoarding?
No. Thankfully in Costa Rica, we do not have a shortage of toilet paper and we haven’t had any fights breaking out in the supermarket. Supermarkets are full of food and supplies and the government has been assuring the public that there won’t be a food shortage. We haven’t had to worry about running out of meat, toilet paper or Lysol wipes.
There haven’t really been any big protests in Costa Rica. But there have been small protests in the coastal areas like Tamarindo and Quepos due to the high unemployment as these areas depend on tourism.
The Costa Ricans I’ve spoken to are fairly pleased with how the government is handling the COVID-19 situation, but that was more in the beginning when there were few cases. Now, there is a growing frustrating and resentment due to high unemployment, the Nicaraguan border issue and taxes as it’s been 4 months and the confirmed cases and fatalities are increasing much quicker than before.
Tourism in Costa Rica: The Impact on the Economy
As the border has now been closed since mid March, the businesses that depend purely on foreign tourism are not doing well. We know companies who have laid off everyone. We know companies who kept one or two employees. There are businesses who closed almost all offices. The government has put in some regulations to help businesses but of course it’s nothing compared to how it would be in normal situations.
Now that the government has announced they will plan to let in countries with low COVID-19 transmission rates first starting on August 1, the tourism sector is looking forward to reactivate tourism again, even just for a little bit.
If you’d like to help the Costa Rican tourism economy, you can do a few things if it’s possible in your situation (we know that everyone has been affected greatly by COVID-19 one way or another).
1. You can postpone/reschedule your trip instead of asking for a refund.
2. Ask for a partial refund.
3. Buy gift cards or donate.
What Have We Been Up To?
Since end of March, Yeison and I have been staying at home as much as possible. It’s been very quiet for us with no tourists but we are making the best out of the situation. We are healthy which is the most important thing. Our dogs have been very happy as now we’re taking them out way more than usual for walks and car rides. We have also been gardening a lot as we live on a large property. I got Animal Crossing New Horizons which has been taking up a loooot of my time 😀
We go to the beach occasionally to surf and walk the dogs in the morning. It’s been nice to get out of the house and feel the sand between our toes again. We make sure to stay 6 feet apart from others which is easy to do since it’s not that crowded.
However, we are being even more extra cautious now that there are much more cases throughout the country and still staying home as much as possible. I was planning to visit my family in the US this month but not anymore. Until international travel is open and safe again, Yeison and I will be hunkering down in our home with our two dogs, going to the beach in the mornings, putting together some home DIY projects and of course, working hard on the blog.
Let’s All Do Our Part to Stay Safe and Healthy
Wherever you are in the world, let’s all do our part to stay safe and healthy. We hope to see you in Costa Rica when travel reopens and the world has healed itself.