While Costa Rica moves into the 3rd phase of the planned easing of restrictions placed on the public due to the Sars-cov2 outbreak, some new unexpected revisions were made, requiring the use of masks for employees and in some cases for members of the public.
On Friday, June 26, 2020, the Minister of Health, Daniel Salas detailed the services or shops that must wear a mask or face shield on a mandatory basis starting Saturday June 27th:
- Any person attending to the public, in the case of restaurants, must always be a mask due to the elevated position of the person taking the order. The personnel of attention to the public that has physical barriers (glass, acrylics, polyethylenes), is not obliged to use a mask or face shield. If a risk assessment carried out by the company itself considers it appropriate, they can be used as part of personal protective equipment.
- Clients and drivers of paid public transport of people inside the vehicles, and recommended at stations and stops. The bus company will have the respective labeling on the correct use of the mask.
- Assistants and those who officiate religious acts.
- Attendees to theaters and cinemas.
- People who visit health centers, prisons, drug or alcohol treatment centers or care centers for at risk people.
- People who care for the elderly and people with disabilities, especially those who provide this service in nursing homes, nursing homes and other residential alternatives.
- People who work in call centers that share work cubicles.
- Bank customers
The masks can be surgical or fabric and the masks must have general facial coverage, since it is important that it adequately covers the mouth and nose. All the instructions on the proper use of the masks and the details of how to make them at home are available on the Ministry's website: https://www.ministeriodesalud.go.cr/index.php/centro-de-informacion / material-communication / protocols-ms / coronavirus / masks
The Ministry of Health emphasized that the measure is necessary due to the greater opening of services and shops, as well as the presence of the virus in highly populated centers, however, he stressed that the use of This personal protective equipment does not replace, at any time, the distancing and hygiene measures that have been communicated.
Several areas of the country remain in phase 2 of the restrictions due to increases in the number of cases in those areas.
In Guanacaste beach goers are now allowed on the beaches from 5am to 9:30am daily, including weekends. People are still required to maintain distancing from each other and should restrict use to walking, jogging and swimming, not picnicing or tanning.
While no one faults the new restrictions in San Jose and other heavily populated centers, the new measures do add to the economic damage that are a direct result of the restrictions on the tourist sector. Business that rely on tourism for income are already burdened with travel restrictions, reduced hours of operation, reduced capacity, and now the added cost of face shields and masks for staff. Owners are also required to enforce the use of masks for patrons or risk closure or fines.
As a result many restaurants are choosing to remain closed, which in turn adds to the unemployment devastation that has ravaged this particular sector of the economy.
A recent protest in Tamarindo attempted to highlight the issue regarding the effects the restrictions are having in the region. The police were requested to shut down the protest and arrested past National Surf Champ and internationally recognized surfing coach, Andrea Diaz for leading the protest.
Protest in Tamarindo video
While the central government tries to keep the country moving on the same trajectory in facing down the Sars-cov2 epidemic, the effects of their restrictions disproportionally affect those in the tourist regions. Most are willing to give up some freedoms in the hopes that the entire country gets through this quickly, but after 3 months, many are looking for alternative solutions just to make ends meet.
Also on Friday, the government announced that airports will remain closed to interenational tourism until at least August 1st, and then added a statement indicating that only certain countries may be allowed entry.
There are no easy solutions to these problems but clearly a one size fits all solution may not be the best option going forward, if people are to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads.