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Costa Rica tightens controls in the agricultural sector due to coronavirus

June 11, 2020

Costa Rican authorities announced Wednesday a “health intervention” for agricultural companies and food packers, especially near the border area with Nicaragua, in order to control the COVID-19 outbreaks registered in that sector.

The Ministers of Health, Daniel Salas, and of Agriculture, Renato Alvarado, warned that rigorous sanitary standards will be applied for these companies, and that those that do not comply with them will be closed.

“We are going to integrate them in a more rigorous way into a health intervention plan in the affected agricultural sector,” Salas said at a press conference.

Health, agriculture, security and migration authorities will conduct inspections on agricultural land and food packing plants to verify compliance with sanitary regulations, and will force those who do not comply to suspend work, Alvarado said.

“The impact that the advance of the pandemic is having in our country has been concentrated in districts and cantons of the northern zone” bordering Nicaragua, said the Minister of Health.

Plantations and packers of products such as pineapple and cassava operate in that region, regularly employing undocumented migrants from the neighboring Central American country.

Those migrants, employed as seasonal laborers, typically work long hours and live in cramped housing that make them more vulnerable to disease.

“Cases are occurring more in vulnerable populations with migratory roots, agricultural workers, [and] construction workers, who are below the poverty line,” Román Macaya, executive president of Costa Rica’s Social Security System (CCSS), said earlier this month.

Salas warned weeks ago that Nicaragua is the main health threat to Costa Rica because, according to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), that country registers community circulation of the coronavirus.

The measures were proposed after finding 86 new infections, the highest daily total recorded since the outbreak began in the country in March.

Costa Rica, with 5 million inhabitants, registered until this Wednesday 1,461 cases and 12 deaths related to COVID-19.

“We are going to have to implement a control plan for what happens in the northern zone, where we have agricultural activities such as the harvesting and processing of cassava for export, which has been increasing [the cases],” the Minister of Agriculture warned.

Salas said that the country is experiencing a second wave of contagion and that Latin American countries are the new epicenter of the coronavirus, forcing care to be doubled in Costa Rica, which has kept the spread under control.

He warned that if infections spike, the country is exposed to “a collapse in health systems.”

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