Costa Rica commemorates one year of the pandemic

A look back at the Covid year that was.

Costa Rica confirmed its first coronavirus case on March 6, 2020. Despite taking drastic measures to contain Covid-19, the disease became Costa Rica’s leading cause of death in 2020.

To date, Costa Rica has registered 2,833 deaths related to Covid-19. More than 206,000 people have tested positive, and at least 100 people have been hospitalized with the disease every single day since July 7, 2019.

Costa Rica’s encouraging Covid trends have allowed authorities to lift almost all major restrictions, and every day, the country’s most-vulnerable are receiving vaccines.

At a commemoration on Friday, President Carlos Alvarado delivered a message of hope. But even as there are reasons for optimism, it has undoubtedly been a difficult year. Let’s recap the most notable events from the pandemic in Costa Rica:

  • March 6, 2020: Costa Rica confirms its first coronavirus case in a U.S. tourist from New York. A Costa Rican doctor is later identified as “patient zero” when he later tests positive; he was linked to at least 80 cases and died of Covid-19 in April 2020.

  • March 16, 2020: Costa Rica declares a State of Emergency, suspending in-person lessons and closing borders. Over the coming days, authorities also shut down beaches and national parks and establish driving restrictions, among other measures.

  • March 18, 2020: An 87-year-old man becomes the first to die of Covid-19 in Costa Rica. A second elderly adult dies the following day.

  • March 31, 2020: Costa Rica opens a hospital to treat Covid-19 patients, the first in a series of infrastructure improvements in response to the disease.

  • Early April 2020: Costa Rica imposes its strictest measures, closing nearly all commercial businesses and limiting mobility during Easter Holy Week.

  • April 17 2020: The government begins distributing “Bono Proteger,” a stipend to workers who lost their jobs during the pandemic.

  • May 1, 2020: Facing a growing economic crisis, Costa Rica begins easing measures, allowing some business (e.g. restaurants, hotels) to reopen. By mid-May, national parks and beaches can reopen.

  • May-July 2020: With borders still closed, unemployment reaches 24.4%, the highest ever recorded in the country. Today, it remains at nearly 20%.

  • August 1, 2020: Costa Rica reopens its air borders to tourists from countries with low Covid spread. By November 1, Costa Rica reopens to all tourists who arrive via a flight.

  • August 31, 2020: The government enacts the model, Costa Rica trabaja y se cuida (Costa Rica works and protects itself), allowing for most economic activity to resume with certain measures in place — namely, mask-wearing and physical distancing.

  • December 24, 2020: Costa Rica begins a national vaccination campaign against Covid-19. To date, nearly 200,000 doses have been administered.

  • March 5, 2021: At a ceremony at Costa Rica’s Covid-specific hospital, the president, health minister and other authorities commemorate a year of the pandemic in Costa Rica.

“Our indicators are among the best, comparatively, in the region, and in some cases in the world, and that is thanks to the Costa Rican people,” said President Carlos Alvarado. “It is thanks to our attitude, to follow the measures and the recommendations, and that is a merit for all of Costa Rica.”

Milestones of deaths:

  • First death: March 18, 2020.

  • 100th death: July 26, 2020.

  • 500th death: September 7, 2020.

  • 1,000th death: October 6, 2020.

  • 2,000th death: December 19, 2020.

“Every day, we have the opportunity to be a light,” said Health Minister Daniel Salas. “Every day, we have the opportunity to build and not destroy. Every day, we have the opportunity to speak words of hope and not hopelessness. Every day, we choose how we’ll be remembered when we’re gone.

“I see the effort of a country that has understood that this fight transcends the individual. … My message: let’s choose to be the light and not the darkness.”


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