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New Costa Rica coronavirus measures go into effect today

September 9, 2020

Costa Rica has entered its September “Open Phase,” easing most measures but enforcing stricter rules regarding masks.

Here’s what you should know today about Costa Rica’s response to the coronavirus:

Costa Rica enters Open Phase

From September 9 through September 30, most commercial establishments can remain open nationwide.

This includes businesses in cantons placed under a COVID-19 Orange Alert. Per the Costa Rican Presidency:

September 9 begins the controlled opening phase for establishments that have a sanitary operating permit that serve the public: Monday to Friday from 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., respecting 50% of maximum capacity.

The vehicular restrictions continue to be standardized for all of September throughout all of Costa Rica. On weekdays, driving is permitted from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. On weekends, driving is permitted from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m.

  • Mondays: Vehicles with license plates ending in 1 and 2 cannot drive. Vehicles with license plates ending in all other numbers can transit freely.
  • Tuesdays: Vehicles with license plates ending in 3 and 4 cannot drive. Vehicles with license plates ending in all other numbers can transit freely.
  • Wednesdays: Vehicles with license plates ending in 5 and 6 cannot drive. Vehicles with license plates ending in all other numbers can transit freely.
  • Thursdays: Vehicles with license plates ending in 7 and 8 cannot drive. Vehicles with license plates ending in all other numbers can transit freely.
  • Fridays: Vehicles with license plates ending in 9 and 0 cannot drive. Vehicles with license plates ending in all other numbers can transit freely.
  • Saturdays: Vehicles with license plates ending in even numbers cannot drive.
  • Sundays: Vehicles with license plates ending in odd numbers cannot drive.

There are many exceptions to the driving restrictions. These include: People driving to/from work, people driving rental cars, people driving to/from a hotel reservation, and people driving to/from a medical appointment. (Drivers will be asked for proof if stopped by Traffic Police.)

As health authorities have emphasized, an economic reopening does not imply a social one. Breaking social bubbles carries a risk, which Costa Ricans should mitigate by:

  • Remaining in their social bubble whenever possible.
  • Avoiding large gatherings.
  • Wearing a mask in public (especially indoors), washing hands frequently, and maintaining physical distance from others.

Click here for an interactive map of Orange/Yellow Alert cantons in Costa Rica, and click here for the official website detailing measures and driving restrictions.

Face shields no longer sufficient

As of Wednesday, wearing only a face shield is longer sufficient in situations where mouth and nose coverings are required.

Face shields can continue to be used — but only if the wearer has a mask on underneath.

Costa Rica obligates that the general public wear face masks in nearly all indoor situations. Exceptions include while eating at restaurants, in private dwellings, for infants and for people with certain disabilities.

Workers who interact with the public must also wear masks.

Masks reinforce existing physical-distancing practices; wearers should still respect their social bubble and wash their hands frequently.

The Health Ministry this week emphasized the importance of wearing masks appropriately. They should cover the nose and mouth; a face shield can provide additional protection for the eyes. Masks with vents or valves are not recommended.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) calls masks “one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus – particularly when used universally within a community setting.”

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