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Costa Rica to reapply restrictions in Greater Metropolitan Area

Costa Rica will apply stricter health restrictions within the Greater Metropolitan Area in response to Wednesday’s record-breaking increase in coronavirus cases, the Health Ministry said.

“With respect with the 294 new cases for today, it’s logical that within the belief of this government that health comes first, this will unfortunately require us to go back on activities that had been allowed,” said Health Ministry Daniel Salas.

Wednesday’s data indicate the cantons of San José, Desamparados, Alajuelita, Alajuela and Heredia have the most active coronavirus cases in Costa Rica.

“The Greater Metropolitan Area is the epicenter of what is happening in the country,” Salas said. “We will calibrate specific measures — it won’t be for the whole country.”

Details will be announced Thursday. Measures will take effect Friday and will last “at least” a week.

Fifty-six people are hospitalized with COVID-19, the highest figure so far during the pandemic. On Wednesday afternoon, the Health Ministry announced the country’s 17th COVID-19-related death.

“The number of people with COVID-19 implicates bigger difficulties for health services and for contact tracing,” Salas said.

While the increase in Costa Rica’s active coronavirus cases correspond to more testing, the country’s test positivity rate has also risen sharply, according to health officials.

Health capacity threatened

Román Macaya, executive president of the Costa Rican Social Security System (CCSS), warned that some public-health services could be days from saturation.

Costa Rica’s coronavirus-specific hospital, CEACO, is expected to house 44 patients by Wednesday night — exactly half of its 88-bed capacity.

“We will have more than duplicated in a week,” Macaya said. “If this is exponential, and we duplicate hospitalizations each week, we could be a week from saturating CEACO.”

Patients in CEACO are hospitalized for an average of 12 days, Macaya said.

Earlier this week, the CCSS said Costa Rica’s intensive-care capacity — which doesn’t include CEACO — would be saturated within 14 days at 2,000 new weekly cases (285 per day).

‘It will be this way until there’s a vaccine’

President Carlos Alvarado said Costa Ricans should prepare for “a few more months” of the country applying or easing measures based on the pandemic response.

“There are moments when there will be opening, and there will be moments when we have to restrict,” he said. “It will be this way until there’s a vaccine, until there’s a generalized cure.

“We must adjust to this reality.”

President Alvarado alleged Costa Rica’s recent rise in cases can largely be attributed to “extracurricular” activities — that is, traced to social gatherings rather than to work.

“I know people are tired, physically and mentally,” President Alvarado said. “We need to face this together.”

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