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Costa Rica
Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Covid surge has pushed Costa Rica hospitals ‘to the limit’

The Costa Rican Social Security System (Caja) says its capacity has been stretched “to the limit” by Covid-19 hospitalizations.

In a press release from the Caja, which manages Costa Rica’s public hospitals, medical manager Mario Ruiz indicated ICU occupancy has reached “levels never before recorded during the entire pandemic.”

Costa Rica last week reached 662 patients hospitalized with Covid-19, the topping the previous highs in September and December 2020 (627 and 644 patients, respectively).

“Available resources are finite, and there is no system in the world that can adequately respond to an accelerated increase like the one we are currently in,” Ruiz said.

On Saturday, 303 of hospitalized patients were in an ICU bed, and 60% of them were between 30 and 59 years old, the Caja detailed.

“This shows that the disease also presents complications in young people,” Ruiz said, though the demographics of serious illness could be changing as Costa Rica’s older population is vaccinated.

Surge after Semana Santa

The wave of new cases and hospitalizations comes less than a month after the Easter Holy Week (Semana Santa), one of the most popular travel periods of the year in Costa Rica. In an effort to support the economy, the government at the time did not impose measures to limit mobility.

Since Semana Santa, the average number of daily new cases has more than doubled.

“Given this accelerated increase in a sustained way, it is materially impossible to meet the demand for severe Covid patients and other pathologies that also compromise people’s lives,” the Caja said.

At the current pace, the hospital system could be saturated “within the next two weeks,” Ruiz estimated.

Especially vulnerable are the 125 “critical” ICU beds — of Costa Rica’s 348 total intensive-care beds — reserved for the most critical Covid patients. Just seven were empty on Saturday, representing a 94% occupancy rate.

Few new measures

Costa Rica has reapplied its weekend driving measures and lengthened its nighttime driving ban. These measures aim to limit mobility — which itself can reduce contagion — and also to limit the number of vehicles on the road during nighttime periods when serious accidents frequently occur.

By reducing the number of car-crash victims who require hospitalization, beds can be held for Covid patients.

In addition to the stricter measures, Ruiz called on the population to heed everyday protocols.

“We all want to work, study, and enjoy time with family and friends,” he said. “For this, we need greater responsibility and commitment from each person at all times to take care of themselves and protect each other with hand-washing, correct use of the mask and distancing.”

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