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COVID-19 protocol activated ‘many times,’ but still no coronavirus in Costa Rica: Health Ministry

February 28, 2020

The Health Ministry said Friday that an airport protocol to attend to sick travelers has been activated “many times” in recent weeks, but that there remain no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Costa Rica.

The update came during a press conference at Juan Santamaría International Airport, Costa Rica’s largest and busiest port of entry for foreign visitors, during which authorities detailed the inter-institutional response for potential cases of the novel coronavirus.

“To reiterate, we don’t have any suspected cases [of coronavirus],” said Health Minister Daniel Salas. “We have done assessments, and the protocol here at the airport, starting from the airplane, has been activated many times, and we’ve done the necessary tests.”

If a patient presents coronavirus symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath) on a flight to Costa Rica, pilots will communicate with the airport control tower, who will activate the protocol. The passenger(s) will be escorted to a ground-level, isolated boarding area, where they will be tested by medical professionals.

More than 140 people have been evaluated for COVID-19 via these methods at the San José-area airport, authorities said.

“We know that [COVID-19] can’t always be detected at the airport, but if it can, we have the measures to handle it,” Salas said.

Health Ministry monitoring arrivals from South Korea

Health authorities in Costa Rica recognize it’s increasingly likely that COVID-19 will arrive in the Central American country.

“As there are more countries with sustained transmission, the number of people who will arrive with suspected cases will increase,” Salas said, noting recently confirmed cases in Mexico and Brazil.

Health authorities are currently monitoring 34 Ticos who arrived in Costa Rica on Tuesday from South Korea, the country with the most cases outside of China.

The Health Ministry is also working with the Costa Rican Tourism Board (ICT) to disseminate information about the novel coronavirus to tour companies and similar businesses throughout Costa Rica.

Among their recommendations is for businesses to prominently display signs detailing proper cough and sneeze etiquette, and to clean “all door knobs, washbasin handles, toilets, telephones, keyboards and computer devices with disinfectant or alcohol, at least twice daily.”

The World Health Organization has issued the following guidelines for the general public in order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19:

  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Maintain at least three feet of distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Practice good respiratory hygiene.
  • If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early.
  • Stay at home if you feel unwell.

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