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Costa Rica announces new restrictions to limit mobility in Greater Metropolitan Area

July 11, 2020

Costa Rican authorities on Friday announced a series of health measures to limit mobility in the Greater Metropolitan Area, which includes the capital of San José and surrounding cities.

The following measures take effect beginning Saturday, July 11. They will last through Sunday July 19.

The entire GAM (and elsewhere) elevated to an Orange Alert

The below image indicates which cantons are under an orange alert starting Saturday:

Orange alert in Costa Rica as of July 11, 2020.
Orange alert in Costa Rica as of July 11, 2020. Via CNE.
Map of Orange Alert in Costa Rica as of July 11, 2020.
Map of Orange Alert in Costa Rica as of July 11, 2020. Via CNE.

Near-total vehicular restriction in Orange Alert areas

In regions under an Orange Alert, there will be a near-total weekday vehicular restriction. This applies 24 hours a day:

  • Monday: Vehicles with license plates ending in 1 and 2 can drive to essential services (pharmacies, health centers, supermarkets) only. Vehicles with license plates ending in other numbers cannot circulate.
  • Tuesday: Vehicles with license plates ending in 3 and 4 can drive to essential services only. Vehicles with license plates ending in other numbers cannot circulate.
  • Wednesday: Vehicles with license plates ending in 5 and 6 can drive to essential services only. Vehicles with license plates ending in other numbers cannot circulate.
  • Thursday: Vehicles with license plates ending in 7 and 8 can drive to essential services only. Vehicles with license plates ending in other numbers cannot circulate.
  • Friday: Vehicles with license plates ending in 9 and 0 can drive to essential services only. Vehicles with license plates ending in other numbers cannot circulate.
  • Weekends: There is a total nighttime restriction from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. During the day (5 a.m. to 5 p.m.):
    • Vehicles with license plates ending in ODD numbers can drive to essential services on Saturday.
    • Vehicles with license plates ending in EVEN numbers can drive to essential services on Sundays.

Workers are permitted to drive to their places of employment but must carry proof of employment. Public transport will continue operating at 20% capacity; taxis can continue operating without restrictions.

“For those people from cantons under an Orange Alert who on the weekends […] want to move to Yellow Alert cantons, they can do so if they have a hotel reservation that is located in a canton under a Yellow Alert,” said Pilar Garrido, Planning Minister.

This hotel exemption is only valid on weekends.

Essential services can operate

Essential businesses can remain open in areas under an orange alert. This includes supermarkets, pharmacies, and health centers. Delivery services are also permitted.

Non-essential commercial businesses must remain closed in all areas under an Orange Alert.

The following businesses are considered as essential: Supermarkets and grocery stores, pharmacies, medical centers, bakeries, butchers, food delivery, agricultural, veterinary and hygiene suppliers, banks, funeral homes, farmer’s markets.

Health Minister Daniel Salas said these essential services will not close in Costa Rica during the pandemic and asked the public to avoid panic-buying.

Ongoing measures in yellow-alert areas

All areas under a “Yellow Alert” (i.e. any location not listed under an Orange Alert) remain in Phase 3.

In those locations, most businesses can remain open during the week and on weekends; religious ceremonies are permitted; and beaches are open from 5-9:30 a.m. daily.

On weekends, the nighttime driving restrictions begin at 5 p.m., even in cantons under a Yellow Alert. (On weekdays, the nighttime ban begins at 7 p.m. as usual.)

Check when you can drive

The driving restrictions are confusing. We highly recommend using La Restricción to double-check before you drive. Simply enter the last digit of your vehicle’s license plate, and you’ll see a color-coded guide providing a general overview of when you can drive.

What is the purpose of the measures?

According to President Carlos Alvarado, the restrictions will help health authorities regain control of the outbreak. The population-dense GAM has been identified as the current epicenter of COVID-19 in Costa Rica.

While the measures won’t immediately correspond with a drop in new cases, it will allow authorities to better identify and isolate clusters, Alvarado said. If successful, this would slow the spread of the coronavirus enough to prevent saturation of health services.

We updated this story to include information about the hotel driving exception, and more information about the nighttime ban in Yellow Alert areas.

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