Reopening the country - COVID-19 News


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We offer on this page information to help the greater Grecia area expat community adapt to the rapidly changing situation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic in Costa Rica. If you have information you'd like to share that would be of value to the community, please send it to our Editor.


Updated September 19, 2020
COVID-19 Symptoms If you think you're sick
Travel restrictions - UPDATED Social distancing
Precautions Shopping - food & medications
US Embassy & Alerts Immigration - UPDATED

Dealing with a pandemic

At a moment of great concern for all of us living in a foreign country faced with a global pandemic and placed in an age group classified as “most-at-risk,” Que Pasa Grecia is providing relevant information on corona virus as it affects us in Costa Rica.

The Ministry of Health has announced that face coverings are now mandatory in all indoor settings except when eating, while alone, or in a private home.  All commercial workers who interact with the public are required to wear face coverings as well.  Face shields can continue to be worn, but only if a face covering is worn underneath.  Face coverings are also required at bus stops and aboard all forms of public transportation.  Face coverings can be either surgical or homemade, as long as they cover the nose and mouth.  The Ministry of Health has stated facial coverings should not include venting devices in order to provide maximum protection against COVID-19.

What makes this disease so deadly is that people may be asymptomatic (sick with the virus for 1 to 14 days before any of the symptoms appear) allowing it to be passed on to others without being detected by medical authorities. Current statistics suggest that every infected corona virus patient passes the disease on to between 2.5 to 3 other people. (It did not take a month for the U.S. to go from one infection to over 112,000 corona virus infections and almost 2,000 deaths.)

About 80% recover from the disease without needing special treatment. More rarely, the disease can be serious and even fatal. Older people, and people with other medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, or those with compromised immune systems or undergoing cancer treatment), may be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill. About 15% of individuals over 65 years of age and/or with pre-existing vulnerability require hospitalization. In part due to its asymptomatic transmission, corona virus has proven to be highly contagious. The data has not been refined, but COVID-19 has a worldwide morality rate of, at least, 1.5 out of 100 tested, at least 10X that of the common flu. To follow the statistics go to this site that has been tracking this since December: ncov2019.live.

Unlike the U.S., Costa Rica has been aggressively testing those possibly infected with corona virus. Costa Rica’s biggest issue is that the national laboratory, the nation’s only authorized testing facility, has been overwhelmed processing the tests.

These are not all of the symptoms experienced by individuals testing positive for COVID-19, but here are the symptoms most commonly reported:

Most-Common Symptoms

Secondary Symptoms


If you think you're sick with COVID-19

If you think you may have corona virus, DO NOT go to a hospital emergency room, clinic or doctor’s office—possibly exposing others to this very communicable disease. Instead, call the Costa Rica COVID-19 hotline number: 1322 immediately if you believe you are presenting symptoms of COVID-19 or were exposed to someone who may have COVID-19 anytime since mid-February 2020. If you qualify, someone will be sent to your home to administer a COVID-19 test.


Government-imposed travel restrictions

Costa Rica has confirmed 62,374 cases of Corona virus as of September 18, 2020. 

From September 9-30, Costa Rica is in an "open phase" of COVID-19 related restrictions.  During this time, most commercial establishments can remain open nationwide, including in Orange Alert areas.  

Vehicle restrictions based on license plates will also continue during the "open phase" and are standardized throughout Costa Rica.  On weekdays, vehicles with authorized license plate numbers are permitted to drive from 5am to 10pm.  On weekends, vehicles with authorized license plate numbers are permitted to drive from 5am to 8pm.  

The border-area driving restrictions, which have typically been more stringent, will not apply in September.  Beaches can remain open nationwide from 5am to 2:30pm and National Parks are open nationwide. For an English language summary of what establishments can operate during September, please visit this link.


Social Distancing

Practice 2-meter social distancing when in public. DO NOT touch others (perhaps, elbow bumping is allowed). A good article from the Washington Post and why this is so important right now:

The Importance of Social Distancing


Precautions

The most important action: wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds frequently at home (and away, if possible—if not, use your hand sanitizer). If you go out, in addition to social distancing, be sure to take all recommended precautions.

I’m one of those in the at-risk demographic. So when I now go out, I’m not proud or a fashionista. I wear gloves, a face mask and my extremities are completely covered (I also carry a re-sealable plastic bag with disinfectant wipes and I carry hand sanitizer). I also avoid touching any surfaces with my hands. And, I especially avoid touching my face (mouth, nose, and eyes).

When you come back home, be sure to follow cleaning protocols - clean your shoes, clothes, self. Be sure to clean anything you may have touched on the way in and out of your house. Every time you exit your car, don't forget to disinfect door handles, steering wheel, gear-shift knob and other surfaces you may have touched inside your car and then go inside, remove your gloves, and WASH YOUR HANDS!

A suggestion: eliminate all unnecessary contacts. For instance for the time being, we have asked our housekeeper to take an extended vacation—figuring its better eliminate a contact to stay healthy than to have a sparkling, clean house.


Shopping – Food, Medicines and Other

Many local grocery businesses are offering home deliveries:

La Gran Bodega, the produce-heavy market near the Grecia feria that is popular with the ex-pat community, is making home deliveries.

They will deliver food and groceries to customers in Grecia for ȼ2000. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Use Whatsapp to send a text message with your list and directions for delivery. You can then call or text afterwards to confirm. The number is 8886-7278. Please have your order in by 10:00 a.m. Contact is Karla, she speaks both Spanish and English.

In Sarchi, a similar service is offered by Pedidos, 8301-4753. and Fulvio Verduleria, (express delivery on the weekends), 8407-2365. Call them for delivery details.

Do not forget your local pulperias. While there have been scenes on the local news of bare shelves, this seems to be in isolated areas in San Jose and has not manifested as a problem in our subscriber area. Many of the larger chain stores have instituted 'early opening for seniors' hours, including Maxi Pali.

Goat cheese addicts who are self-quarantining need not suffer even more for lack of their favorite culinary fix. During the coronavirus crisis Finca BAAA is offering home delivery in the Grecia, Sarchi, Atenas, and Alajuela areas for a flat C1,500 with a minimum order of C10,000. See full details, types and prices - click here.


Embassies

The US Embassy is sending regular email Alerts to citizens that are enrolled in their Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. See this page to sign up for STEP program and Alerts.

US Embassy contact information:

U.S. Embassy San Jose
+506-2519-2000
Email: ACSSANJOSE@state.gov
https://cr.usembassy.gov/
State Department - Consular Affairs: 888-407-4747 or 202-501-4444

On July 8, Costa Rica confirmed 5836 cases of Corona virus.
On July 21, those numbers were 11,800 cases and 68 deaths. 
As of August 2, those numbers were 18,975 cases and 162 deaths.
As of September 19, we are now at 62,374 cases and 686 deaths.

The Ministry of Health expanded the list of states from which tourists can enter Costa Rica.  Currently, U.S. citizen tourists who are residents of New York, New Jersey, Maine, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Virginia, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Wyoming, Arizona, New Mexico, Michigan and Rhode Island are allowed to enter Costa Rica.  Residents of California will be allowed to enter Costa Rica as of October 1.  

Tourists from these states — or from an authorized country, such as Canada — can fly from an authorized state through a non-authorized state (e.g. Florida, Texas) en route to Costa Rica. The maximum layover time in the non-authorized state is 18 hours, and the traveler cannot leave the airport.  Tourists coming from anywhere but the United States must have remained in an authorized country for at least 14 days before travel.

U.S. citizens from authorized states wishing to enter Costa Rica must complete a digital epidemiological health pass, obtain a negative PCR-RT coronavirus test taken within 72 hours of their departure from the United States, and purchase travel insurance that covers accommodation in case of quarantine and medical expenses due to COVID-19.  U.S. tourists must also demonstrate, via a valid driver’s license or State ID card, that they live in one of the authorized states.  No forms of documentation establishing residency in these select states other than a valid driver’s license or State ID card will be accepted at this time.  Accompanying minors are not required to have a driver's license.  For an English language summary of these requirements, please visit this link.

The Costa Rica Directorate of Migration has announced that Permanent/Temporary Residents of Costa Rica may enter the country via air regardless of where they are coming from but must present the following documentation: 1) Passport, 2) Valid DIMEX, 3) evidence Caja payments are up to date for each person, and 4) a completed Health Pass (Pase de Salud).  Residency holders who are not up to date on Caja payments will still be allowed to enter Costa Rica but will be required to become current with their payments within 22 days.  Residency holders who are not up to date on Caja payments must also present proof of insurance to cover COVID-19 related hospital and lodging expenses for 22 days.  Costa Rican Permanent/Temporary Residents and Costa Rican citizens must complete a 14-day quarantine.  However, the quarantine is waived if 1) arriving from one of a list of authorized countries or U.S. States, 2) have proof of stay for the past 14 days in that country or U.S. state, and 3) carry a negative COVID-19 test (PCR-RT) taken no more than 72 hours before their flight to Costa Rica.  For a summary of entry requirements for permanent and temporary residents, please visit this link.

All passengers will be subject to Costa Rica immigration and customs laws and Airline policies.  The U.S. Embassy is not able to intervene if people are stopped for violations or do not meet airline regulations. U.S. Citizens must have valid passports to enter the United States. If you do not have a valid U.S. passport, please email the US Embassy immediately to apply for an Emergency Passport. Foreign national passengers must possess an official travel document from their country of nationality and permission to approach a United States port of entry such as a legal permanent resident card, U.S. visa, or Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) pre-approval. For more information on U.S. entry follow this link.

Please be sure you are enrolled in the Safe Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive the latest updates. You can also find updated information on the U.S. Embassy Website.

Please be aware that foreigners will not be allowed to enter Costa Rica until after current border restrictions are lifted. People with residency status who depart Costa Rica at this time will not be allowed to re-enter Costa Rica using their residency status until the emergency period is lifted by the Government of Costa Rica.

You can email any additional questions you may have to ACSSANJOSE@state.gov.

American Citizen Services has received reports from U.S. citizens living in Costa Rica reporting telephone calls from individuals purporting to work for the U.S. Embassy in San Jose. These callers state the Embassy is updating profiles of U.S. citizens in Costa Rica due to the COVID 19 crisis. The callers request personal information such as social security numbers and dates of birth. The United States Embassy reminds American citizens that Embassy staff will not initiate calls to U.S. citizens requesting personally sensitive information.


The Immigration Situation

Outlier Legal Service has been providing timely alerts about how the government is dealing with migrants. See their site and regular blog for the most current news:
Outlier Legal news

Legal Resident Exit and Entry Rules Clarified

The Costa Rica Directorate of Migration has announced that tourists who entered the country after December 17, 2019 have been granted an extension of stay until November 18, 2020.  The grace period for drivers who are in the country as tourists has also been extended until November 18, 2020.  Tourists must carry their passport and foreign driver's license when driving. 

The Immigration Department has confirmed that it WILL NOT receive residency applications going forward and until after September 18, 2020. This includes all categories.