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Costa Rica obligates wearing masks in any closed space (except at home)

Costa Rica is obligating the general public to wear face masks or shields in nearly all indoor situations, the Health Ministry announced Monday.

The only exceptions are in one’s own home and for customers at restaurants, Health Minister Daniel Salas said.

“I want to announce that the provision for the use of masks has been modified so that they be used in all closed spaces, with the exception of places where food is eaten due to the discomfort that this represents,” Salas said at the Monday afternoon press conference. “This measure obviously does not include houses and family rooms.”

This further extends Costa Rica’s mask requirements that began June 27. At the time, the obligations only applied to workers who interact with the general public and at certain establishments.

“We remind you that using a mask is a complement to other measures to prevent COVID-19,” the Health Ministry said Monday in a statement. This means that the public should continue practicing physical distancing and washing their hands frequently.

Masks can be either surgical or homemade, so long as they cover the nose and mouth. Respirators, such as N95 masks, are also accepted, as are face shields. (Click here for guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control detailing how to make a homemade mask.)

Disposable masks should be discarded in covered bins. Users should wash their hands before putting on a mask and after removing it.

“Evidence indicates the use of suitable masks can help in the prevention of transmission of respiratory viruses from a symptomatic person to a healthy person and also reduces contamination of surfaces by saliva droplets,” the Health Ministry guidelines read.

Exceptions to the mask requirements include:

  • People with disabilities: Those who have physical, cognitive or other disabilities who by themselves cannot remove or put on the mask, as well as those whose disability prevents them from understanding and/or abiding by the protocols.
  • Children under 3 years old.

At commercial establishments, the business-owner is responsible for enforcing mask usage. Penalties for not enforcing Health Measures can include the suspension of sanitary 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.

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