QCOSTARICA – The government of Carlos Alvarado has sent a clear message to the business sector, if they want to open their stores at 100% capacity for the month of December, they must require their customers to demonstrate the QR code that they are already vaccinated against Covid-19.
The measure announced at the end of last week annoyed the productive sector, which considers the sanitary guideline as if it were “forced” or mandatory.
This is because the opportunity cost of operating at 50% capacity as required by the government for businesses that do not request the QR code is very high, especially considering that December is the start of the high season tourist season and for restaurants and bars, as well as for all stores in general.
The business sector is also annoyed that the government did not consult them prior to making the decision for a ‘voluntary QR code verification following a ruling by the Tribunal Contencioso (Contentious Court).
“The sanitary measure in question did not have a prior consultation process with the different businesses, nor were they given a reasonable period of time to comply with said tool, taking into consideration that there is currently uncertainty on the part of the competent authorities in its proper implementation,” said Julio Castilla, president of the Costa Rica Chamber of Commerce.
The annoyance of the businessmen made them go to the Ombudsman’s Office to avoid being compulsory.
Likewise, Castilla’s complaint states that “currently there are many people who do not have access to technology, a situation that would prevent them from entering a business,” Castilla added.
A week ago, the Contentious Court issued a precautionary measure, the temporary suspension, against the obligation that the government mandate as of January for the implementation of the QR code.
However, the court ruling it does not imply that the government and the Ministry of Health cannot define other guidelines regarding the allowed capacity.
As had been laid out prior to the court ruling, starting December 1, businesses can voluntarily adopt the QR code verification for the benefit of 100% capacity, by placing a sign at entry, either requiring the digital certificate or not.
Last week, the government pushed back on the court ruling, reminding businesses that they can be at 100% capacity despite the suspension. It also increased capacity of many others, as a “benefit” for QR coding customers.
The idea is that come January 8, 2022, if the court-ordered suspension is still in place when the QR code becomes mandatory, businesses and customers have already gotten used to the measure.
In a statement last week, President Alvarado said that neither he or Daniel Salas, the Minister of Health, the QR code is not something that he and Salas made up.
To be clear, the business sector is not against vaccination nor the implementation of the QR code, they contention is on the timing, asking the government to delay the measure until after Semana Santa (Easter Week), allowing businesses to take advantage of the high tourist season and summer (dry season) to economically recover.
“The measure must be contemplated in a longer period, to be implemented after Semana Santa since before it will limit some businesses and this translates into higher operating costs, in the same way, many people still do not have access to the code, which could limit consumer rights.
“The application (voluntary application for benefit of higher capacity) is a prohibited way to implement the QR before the precautionary measure of the Contentious Administrative Court”, said José Luis Araya, executive director of the UCCAEP, the Costa Rican Union of Chambers and Associations of the Private Business Sector, the leading non-profit entity that groups and represents private business organizations in Costa Rica.