There's a pandemic. Why didn't Costa Rica's deaths increase?

Answering your Costa Rica questions during Free talk Friday.

Happy Friday! At the end of the week, we answer your questions about Costa Rica. Submit yours for the next “Free Talk Friday” by emailing us at or by clicking the button below: 

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Why didn’t Costa Rica’s deaths increase more in 2020?

Costa Rica in 2020 registered 23,056 total deaths, just 32 more than in 2019, according to preliminary figures released by the Supreme Elections Tribunal (TSE) to Semanario Universidad.

These figures are especially notable in context of the ongoing pandemic, when one might expect excess mortality to increase. What gives?

Some thoughts on the matter:

  • The 2020 death figure is preliminary, so it may be adjusted further by TSE or the National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC).

  • Covid-related measures almost certainly helped reduce deaths from other transmissible diseases, such as bronchopneumonia (426 deaths in 2019), pneumonia (162) and influenza (35).

  • Covid-related measures also almost certainly reduced transit accidents (799 deaths in 2019, if you count cyclists and pedestrians) and drownings (91).

The 2019 data comes from INEC, which tabulated 24,292 total deaths in 2019. You can review it here.

  • INEC has not yet released a report detailing all of 2020’s deaths. However, Covid-19 was Costa Rica’s leading cause of death last year.

  • Heart attacks killed 1,342 Costa Ricans in 2019; preliminary data indicate Covid-19 killed 2,185 people in nine months of 2020.

  • Costa Rica’s lack of excess mortality suggests the country didn’t underreport Covid-related deaths.

  • Combined with Costa Rica’s falling hospitalizations and new cases, the data could support the country’s decision to reopen air borders, reopen schools, etc.


What’s the latest on the digital nomad & investor visas?

Earlier this month, we detailed two law projects: One to attract investors and another to attract digital nomads.

Importantly, both of these bills have been summoned to the Legislative Assembly (Congress) floor, which means both projects should be debated — and potentially passed — by the end of July.

Here’s the latest:

  • The project to attract investors (22.156): Various deputies have proposed modifications to the bill. The heaviest criticism is in regards to whether foreigners should be allowed to import a vehicle tax-free.

  • The project to attract digital nomads (22.215): Various deputies have proposed modifications to the bill. The Tourism Chamber says approving the project is an “important opportunity.”


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