Guanacaste is the first province in Costa Rica to no longer have active cases of the Coronavirus. A breath of fresh air for this very touristic region sheltering paradisiacal beaches of white sand, such as Playa Samara. But we must not declare victory too quickly.
« That doesn’t mean the virus is no longer circulating. There is always the possibility that a new case may appear or that someone is infected but has no symptoms », said regional health director, Enrique Jiménez, to the newspaper La Voz de Guanacaste.
Costa Rica has so far been spared of the virus, unlike other countries on the American continent. The United States has become, since March 26th, the epicentre of the pandemic in terms of the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19. In South American countries, such as Brazil and Ecuador, the virus is sadly continuing to spread.
A quality health care system
Once again, the small green democracy, where the number of new active cases continues to decline, is Latin America’s best performer, thanks in part to its strong health system. « It is one of the best in Latin America and access to care is universal . Since the beginning of the pandemic, universities, in particular the Universidad de Costa Rica, have also been working to produce masks, respirators as well as searching for an anti-virus (especially from the antibodies of cured people) », explains anthropologist Elisabeth Cunin in a blog post.
« This feeling of being the ‘good pupil’ of Central America reflects a true democratic commitment, which also sometimes takes a nationalist turn, bearing a certain self-righteousness that does not tolerate deviancy, that of other Central American countries but also that of fellow citizens who do not respect common rule », continues the researcher. On social networks, many publications even praise Costa Rica as « the best place in the world before, during and after the coronavirus crisis ».
A responsive government
If the country of the ‘Pura Vida’ has been able to limit the spread of the virus, it is thanks to the responsiveness of the government, which was able to take appropriate and timely measures. The borders were closed to foreigners on 18th March, when fewer than 30 cases were reported. But this decision is not without catastrophic consequences for the tourist sector, the real economic lung of Costa Rica.
Extension of tourist visas
On 23rd March 2020, even more restrictive measures were taken: closure of beaches, national parks, bars, discotheques, curfews, closure of churches and religious worship centres… Although restaurants can remain open at 50% of their capacity, most have decided (out of a sense of responsibility) to give preference to take-away sales. For tourists, Costa Rica has become a sanctuary as tourist visas have been automatically extended until 17th July 2020.
In Costa Rica, there is no strict confinement as we have seen in Europe, but only one watchword: Quedénse en casa. « The response, in general from the population, has been satisfactory. They understood the historic moment we are living through », Health Minister Daniel Salas told Reuters on 23 April.
At its last conference on the 27th April, the Costa Rican government relaxed some measures, for example, allowing theatres and cinemas to reopen on the condition that seats are two meters apart. But pending the new May 11 issue, « The beaches remain closed », said President Carlos Alvarado. « You have seen what happens in other places, where once the restriction on beaches lifted, there is a mass conglomeration. And that is an enormous risk. » The message is clear : Costa Rica is determined to protect the population, no matter what.