(QCOSTARICA) Due to the increased number of new infections and hospitalizations for COVID-19 in the Greater Metropolitan Area (GAM), the government has decided to continue to apply the “hammer”.
On Friday, the government announced that 34 cantons of the Greater Metropolitan Area (GAM), where 2,967,000 people live – 58% of the country’s population – will continue for two more weeks with strong restrictions on commerce and the movement of vehicles.
The GAM extends from San Ramón, in Alajuela to Paraíso, in Cartago.
The limitations are from Monday, July 20 to Friday, July 31 and, on that day, the GAM will be three weeks in orange and stronger restrictions on the rest of almost the entire country.
The government’s objective is to curb infections and, above all, hospitalizations, which are already beginning to put Costa Rica’s medical services in trouble, stretching the ability of the Caja Costarricense Seguro Social (CCSS) to limits beyond its capacity.
Friday’s announcement was surprising. Since Wednesday, Health Minister Daniel Salas had said that on Monday the 20th the GAM would return to phase 2, that is, where shops, restaurants, banks, gyms, and other establishments could open with limited capacity.
But that is not the case.
“Now, two days before the supposed opening, they warn us that we cannot open. We have purchased raw material. Now what we are gonna do. Again we are the ones who lose,” said the Costa Rican Chamber of Restaurants (Cacore), in a statement.
Julio Castilla, president of the Chamber of Commerce, declared that “the announcement by the Minister of Health, where he extends the restrictive measures for orange sectors by 11 days, puts the livelihood of more than 150,000 families at risk over the next two weeks.”
On Friday, the Ministry of Health reported 423 new infected in one day, with an accumulated of 9,969 cares reached. Of these, there are 7,104 active contagions, that is, in the ability to transmit the virus.
In addition, there were 47 deaths reported, 5 of them in a 24-hour period, 66% died in the first 17 days of July.
Also, the number of people requiring hospital care reached 211, of these, 38 in critical condition in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
In addition to the 34 GAM cantons, another 14 cantons outside this region, three of them partially, are also on orange alert.
Restrictions until July 31. While all the areas in the country under yellow alert continue with phase 3 reopening, the 48 cantons under the orange alert will have the following restrictions:
- In all those orange blocks there will be a restriction for vehicles to circulate from 5 pm to 5 am, from Monday to Sunday.
- Only people who have exceptional situations established since the start of the pandemic, such as traveling to work, may circulate.
- Likewise, the restriction by plate number will be applied one day a week: Monday 1 & 2, Tuesday 3 & 4, Wednesday 5 & 6, Thursday 7 & 8 and Friday 9 & 0. For weekends, the rule is maintained that only odd-number ending plates can circulate on Saturdays and even-ending ones on Sundays.
- During these two weeks, the doors of shops, theaters, cinemas, gyms, restaurants (home delivery only) will continue to be closed. Also, that of bars and clubs, as has been since March.
- Permitted to open only: supermarkets, suppliers, grocery stores and mini-supers, food sales, groceries, hygiene, bakeries, butchers, greengrocers, agricultural, veterinary, agricultural, laundries, hardware stores, locksmiths, workshops, lubricentros, auto parts sales, banks, and funeral homes can operate, at 50% capacity.
In addition, private clinics, pharmacies, farmers fairs, fueling, lottery sales, vulnerable people’s care centers, public, private or mixed nurseries, 50% capacity hotels and motels may operate.
- The resumption of construction works is permitted.
The cantons and districts inside the GAM: San José, Desamparados, Aserrí, Mora, Goicoechea, Santa Ana, Alajuelita, Vázquez de Coronado, Tibás, Moravia, Montes de Oca, Curridabat, Alajuela, Poás, Atenas, Grecia, Sarchí, Palmares, Naranjo, San Ramón, Cartago, Paraíso, La Unión, Oreamuno, Heredia, Barva, Santo Domingo, Santa Bárbara, San Rafael, Belén, Flores, San Isidro y San Pablo.
The cantons and districts outside the GAM:: Upala, Guatuso, Los Chiles, en San Carlos, sureste de La Fortuna (Tres Esquinas, Los Ángeles, Sonafluca) La Vega, Bonanza en Florencia, Liberia, Cañas, Nicoya, Pococí, Guácimo, Garabito, Corredores, Puntarenas (save Cóbano, Lepanto, Monteverde; islas Chira, Caballo, San Lucas, del Coco), Pavón de Golfito, Agua Buena and Sabalito de Coto Brus.
Health Minister Daniels Salas said that the restrictive scheme was maintained in the areas with the intention of resuming traceability and halting the accelerated increase in cases and seriously ill patients to prevent them from exceeding the capacity of the health services.
In the orange zones, he added, there is an increased danger of transmission, which implies a high risk of collapse in hospitals, according to the latest projections, released on Thursday by the National Emergency Commission (CNE).
According to these estimates, by August 14, if the spread of the virus is not contained, the number of patients in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) could reach 360, well above the 111 ICU beds the Caja has for COVID-19 and for all other pathologies.
Currently, the institution is in the process of transforming beds in order to equip more to care for critically ill patients. However, the support teams (doctors, nurses, etc) are also limited. Meanwhile, the patients who still carry the virus soar.
As of this Friday, for example, the canton San José had 1,891 active cases; Desamparados, 606; Alajuelita, 514; Alajuela, 497; and Heredia, 423.
Salas said that despite these circumstances, some productive activities were allowed. “If we don’t do it, there could be a risk of economic instability,” he said.
This Friday, also announced the extension of the mandatory use of masks or shields at bus stops, starting Saturday, not only in the buses.
Although Minister Salas on Wednesday commented that the reopening of the international airports to foreigners was still a go for August 1, on Friday, he did not refer to the subject.