Costa Rica will obligate the wearing of face masks or shields in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The measure takes effect starting Saturday, June 27. It requires use of a face mask or face shield in the following situations:
- For all workers who interact with the public (e.g. waiters, cashiers, bank tellers, gas-station attendants, etc.). For waiters, masks — rather than shields — are obligatory.
- For the general public: When using any type of paid transportation (e.g. buses, trains, taxis), at cinemas/theaters, at church, at banks, at restaurants except when eating.
Masks can be either surgical or homemade, so long as they cover the nose and mouth. Respirators, such as N95 masks, are also accepted. The Health Ministry’s guidelines for making your own fabric mask are linked here (PDF download).
Disposable masks should be discarded in covered bins. Users should wash their hands before putting on a mask and after removing it.
“These do not replace the measures of social distancing, the cough and sneeze protocol, the washing of hands and staying at home as much as possible,” the Health Ministry says.
The official documentation will be released “later this week,” according to the Health Ministry, and will be available at this link.
While rules won’t be official until the Health Ministry publishes that documentation, the entity in the past has not recommend masks for children under 2 years old, people with respiratory issues, or people who would be unable to take off their mask without help.
Salas said Monday that the initial guidelines won’t require the general public to wear masks at supermarkets or when walking outdoors.
The business or people in charge of a given establishment will be responsible for enforcing mask usage, Health Minister Daniel Salas said. Penalties could include the revocation of necessary permits.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says “masks should be used as part of a comprehensive strategy” to slow the spread of the coronavirus. However, non-medical masks have “limited evidence” supporting their efficacy.
Still, “if there is widespread community transmission, and especially in settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained, governments should encourage the general public to wear a fabric mask,” the WHO says.
Costa Rica’s “Phase 3” of reopening, which includes longer beach and store hours, has been tentatively rescheduled for this weekend. The measures were initially planned for June 20, but have been suspended due to a rise in cases and hospitalizations.