The Public Security Ministry (MSP) closed eight agriculture companies in Costa Rica’s Northern Zone after inspections determined they were operating without the necessary health permits.
A ninth business was shuttered for a month after being identified as a coronavirus hotspot; at least 29 known cases are related to the pineapple plantation in Los Chiles.
MSP said in a press release that it inspected 49 companies on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Seven companies were found violating Costa Rican labor laws, while 13 locations received sanitary orders related to non-compliance with coronavirus protocol.
Twenty foreigners with an irregular migration status were transferred to immigration authorities, and hundreds of workers received temperature checks and other COVID-19 screenings.
“We will remain in the area in constant monitoring,” said Public Security Minister Michael Soto. “We call on farm owners and agricultural companies to respect the guidelines; otherwise we will take the corresponding actions.”
Earlier this month, Costa Rican authorities announced a “health intervention” for agricultural companies and food packers, especially near the border area with Nicaragua, which has become the focal point of a second pandemic wave in the country.
Through Wednesday, Costa Rica has confirmed 1,871 total cases of the coronavirus. The northern cantons of San Carlos and San Ramón have the highest number of active cases, while Los Chiles added the most new cases Wednesday.
Plantations and packers of products such as pineapple and cassava operate in the Northern Zone, regularly employing undocumented migrants from neighboring Nicaragua.
Those migrants, employed as seasonal laborers, typically work long hours and live in cramped housing that make them more vulnerable to disease.
- Read more: Nicaragua migration and COVID-19, explained
“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, Daniel Salas.
MSP has opened a new operating post in Las Tablillas, Los Chiles, “to monitor police actions in the area due to the orange alert issued by the National Emergency Commission in the border cantons.”