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No tourism from countries with heavy coronavirus transmission, Health Ministry says (again)

June 22, 2020

Costa Rica is planning a very gradual reopening for international tourists, Health Minister Daniel Salas said last week.

Salas on Sunday again spoke on the possibility of reopening Costa Rica’s borders to foreign travelers. Below is what he said, edited lightly for clarity:

* * * *

Let’s remember that the borders have been open for repatriation, for people who have a regular immigration status and had left the country before Semana Santa and have been returning. And in the context of those people, we’ve had some positive cases.

But the opening to international tourism, as we’ve been working on it, will be gradual and controlled, with a health protocols that meets the highest standards for traceability and security — of not exposing people in the midst of that activity.

The pandemic will be a constant in society for what remains of 2020. So in that sense, we can’t paralyze all sectors. Obviously, some sectors represent an increased risk.

It’s not that we’re going to open borders and welcome the number of flights that we had arriving before the pandemic. We will open borders in its moment, allowing for people to come from countries where there isn’t a magnified transmission.

There will be a series of steps that will minimize as much as possible the risk of transmission.

In the midst of this, we need to try to coexist. If we close down our society and don’t permit a lot of actives, there will be a social and economic impact — we’re already seeing that impact, though it hasn’t been as big as in other countries. Our productive sector has continued functioning.

But if we don’t find that balance, the social and economic damage could be catastrophic. So we continue our difficult path to balance the health and the economy.

The health is tied to the economy. If we start to have deaths every day, people won’t want to do anything. No one will want to work; no one will want to do economic activities. We have a responsibility to keep the health aspect under control, to permit for the economy to continue.

* * * *

Costa Rica is currently restricting the arrival of non-resident foreigners through June 30, though given Salas’s comments, that date seems likely to be extended.

Salas’s declarations about welcoming tourism only from countries with controlled coronavirus spread appear to directly implicate visitors from the United States. The North American country has tallied more than 2.2 million cases with nearly 120,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

Tourism comprises an estimated 8.2% of Costa Rica’s GDP. The Costa Rican Tourism Board (ICT) is promoting domestic tourism during the coronavirus crisis, though outbreaks in the Northern Zone and elsewhere have led to a suspension of some reactivation plans.

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