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Costa Rica prepares to develop its own coronavirus tests; will announce next steps in facing crisis

April 23, 2020

Costa Rica plans to develop its own test for the coronavirus, President Carlos Alvarado announced Thursday afternoon.

The Costa Rican government is also preparing to announce a roadmap for easing restrictions against the spread of COVID-19.

In addition to the latest coronavirus data, here’s what you should know from today’s press conference:

Costa Rica developing coronavirus tests

The National Center of Biotechnology Innovations is developing a test for the coronavirus that could reduce the country’s burden on international kits, President Alvarado said.

“Today, we are announcing that Costa Rica is developing its own tests for COVID-19, here in our country,” he said. “Facing the situation of high international demand for tests, we have the capability to create them here.” 

Randall Loaiza, director of the biotechnology laboratory, gave a brief demonstration of the test.

Genetic material will first be extracted from a mucous sample, separating RNA from the rest of the sample. After a purification process, the RNA will be placed into a PCR machine and allowed to reproduce, at which point the presence (or lack thereof) of SARS-CoV-2 can be detected.

By producing its own reagents or by acquiring reagents that are in lower demand, Costa Rica could minimize its dependency on solutions that are in short supply worldwide. (This is similar to a strategy created by virologists in England.)

“It’s not just that we want to have a home-brew solution,” Loaiza said. “It’s a need to have a home-brew solution that meets the same standards as the kits.”

The team working on the new test is comprised of Costa Rican biologists, physicists, virologists, geneticists and biotechnologists. The National Center of Biotechnology Innovations hopes to have its tests approved and distributed in six weeks. 

“This demonstrates the quality of our human talent and our science, and the solidarity of our country,” President Alvarado said.

Costa Rica to announce COVID-19 roadmap

Costa Rican authorities will announce on Monday plans for the country to ease restrictions that have been established to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The roadmap is designed to allow Costa Rica to gradually relax measures while minimizing the country’s risk for a surge in cases.

“The situation of the pandemic is, thanks to all of our efforts, under control,” President Alvarado said. “But it is a very fragile control.” 

President Alvarado urged Costa Ricans not to let down their guards and warned that “normal won’t be the same as it was before.”

In response to the coronavirus, Costa Rica has suspended mass gatherings, closed its borders to non-residents and established vehicular restrictions, among other measures. Costa Rica has announced seven-straight decreases in known active coronavirus cases.

Costa Rica coronavirus cases.
Costa Rica coronavirus cases. Click for full size. Tico Times graph.

On May 4, President Alvarado will deliver his annual address to the Legislative Assembly — Costa Rica’s version of a State of the Union.

Alvarado said Thursday that his speech will focus on how Costa Rica can reactivate its economy and respond with unity to the coronavirus crisis.

“We’re on one team: Team Costa Rica,” he said. “If we’re not careful, we can become a country divided. We have to avoid that at all costs.” 

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