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 August 2, 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.

Minor Change to Mandatory Use of Masks Begins Friday, 3 July    
Throughout Costa Rica in addition to use in restaurants, offices and businesses, masks are now also going to be required for grocery shoppers also beginning 3 July until further notice.


COVID-19 and its most-common symptoms

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

Schedule for August

The National Emergency Commission (CNE) has announced the schedule for Costa Rica’s August COVID-19 measures.  

From August 1 through August 9, and from August 22 through August 30, the so called “opening phases,” most establishments with sanitary permission are allowed to operate nationally.  

From August 10 through August 21, the “closed phase,” there will be a total closure of commercial establishments in cantons under an Orange Alert.  In cantons under a Yellow Alert, these establishments can continue to operate normally during this time.  

Driving restrictions will also continue in areas under both Orange and Yellow alerts but will vary according to license plate number, geographical location, and “phase.”  

From August 1 through August 9 and August 22 through August 30, in areas under an Orange Alert, driving will be allowed from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. with daily restrictions based on license plate numbers.  From August 10 through August 21, the “closed phase,” vehicles can also operate from 5am to 5pm but only one day a week and one weekend day based on license plate number. 

In areas under a Yellow alert, during the entire month of August, driving is permitted from 5am to 10pm on weekdays and 5am to 7pm on weekends with daily vehicle restrictions based on license plate number.  

In addition, as of August 1, the number of areas under an Orange alert will decrease, but most of the General Metropolitan Area will remain under an Orange alert. 

For a detailed English language summary of these restrictions and a map of areas under Orange and Yellow alerts as of August 1, please visit this link. 
  
The Ministry of Health has announced that beaches in areas under a Yellow Alert are now allowed to remain open from 5:00am until 2:30pm.  All open air tourism activities (with sanitary precautions) are also allowed in these areas.  The following activities and businesses still cannot operate throughout August: Concerts, public spectacles, fairs (except farmer’s markets), sporting events, expos, conference centers, skate parks and children’s games, amusement parks, bars, nightclubs, casinos. 

Public transport is running at normal capacity/schedules. Taxis can continue operating without restrictions.


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 ȼ1000. 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, we are now at 18,975 cases and 162 deaths.

The Ministry of Health has announced gradual measures for reopening Costa Rica to air travel.  Tourists from designated countries are now able to enter Costa Rica on commercial flights departing from Madrid, Spain and Frankfurt, Germany.  According to the Ministry of Health, the list of designated countries and flight departure points will gradually expand over the coming months. 

All passengers wishing to enter Costa Rica on a flight from a designated departure point will need to present the results of a negative test for COVID-19 taken within the past 48 hours and purchase insurance which covers accommodations in case of quarantine and hospitalization in case of acute illness.  Passengers will also be required to fill out digital epidemiological forms which will be available in multiple languages.  As of now, there is no announced date for when commercial flights from the United States will be allowed to enter Costa Rica.  You can find more specific information regarding this gradual reopening by visiting the U.S. Embassy San Jose website at this link.

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.  All commercial workers who interact with the public are now required to wear face coverings or shields, and face shields are required for everyone indoors except when eating, while alone, or in private homes.  For more information on this requirement, please follow this link.  

The U.S. Embassy in San Jose and the U.S. State Department have coordinated with United Airlines to offer an additional commercial repatriation flights from Juan Santamaria Airport (SJO) in San Jose, Costa Rica to Houston, Texas (IAH). Please visit www.united.com for further information regarding availability, booking and payment.

Health regulations for boarding these flights will be managed according to Costa Rican Ministry of Health guidelines. At this time that includes medical personnel monitoring passenger lines for people with COVID 19 symptoms, and asking passengers with symptoms to self-identify. Health regulations for arrival at Houston’s IAH airport are managed by the airport and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) under guidance from CDC and state health officials. At this time there are no specific measures in place at IAH. Check with the airport and CBP websites for updates here and here.

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

While it is not being recommended, for foreigners who are legal residents of Costa Rica, they will now be allowed to leave the country through a legal port, airport or border crossing without losing their legal status. However, you will not be allowed to re-enter Costa Rica legally until the borders have been reopened. This clarification includes individuals who have legally applied to change their Costa Rican migration status (residency).

Non-legal residents also referred to as perpetual tourists (folks who live here as non-residents and have never filed for legal residency) will now be dealing with some major logistical issues. Typically, these perpetual tourists fly home or, more often, head to Nicaragua every 90 days for a quick turnaround to get their visas renewed. Costa Rica is cracking down on these people. And, the Nicaraguan border is currently closed to Costa Rica due to a political dispute surrounding the virus. It’s not a pretty prospect. We recommend that these individuals should immediately seek legal advice. (If you have already filed for legal residency and can show proof, you are not subject to this policy.)

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

Tourists (non-residents) who entered the country after December 17, 2019, may legally remain in Costa Rica until November 18, 2020.