Tuesday 28 March 2023

Costa Rica could face hospital collapse within a month

By May 23, according to a study, 1,800 people would require a hospital bed, 850 of them in intensive care; CCSS has 955 beds, 348 in ICU.

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28 March 2023 - At The Banks - BCCR

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QCOSTARICA – If Costa Rica keeps the current pace of covid-19 infections over the next month, the country could face a hospital collapse.

This Saturday, Costa Rica reached the highest number of people with covid-19 in intensive care in the history of the pandemic: 303. Photo: Presidencia

This is indicated by an analysis by the Centro Centroamericano de Población de la Universidad de Costa Rica (CCP-UCR) – Central American Population Center of the University of Costa Rica.

“The outlook is bleak, we are entering exponential growth. We have already exceeded 600 hospital beds and within a month we may well be in demand that is triple that: 1,800 beds,” summarized Luis Rosero Bixby, demographer and public health worker and coordinator of the analysis.

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At this time, the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS)  – Costa Rican Social Security Fund – has 955 beds allocated to the care of covid-19, of them 348 ICU.

To this should be added the beds in private health medical centers, which on Friday, April 23, housed 15 patients with covid-19, one of them in the ICU.

This Saturday, April 24, the country reached a record number of people in ICU in what we have seen since the start of the pandemic, 303.

Rosero’s conclusion is based on the contagion rate of covid-19 in the country.

This indicator is also known as the basic reproduction number or R rate, and indicates, on average, how many people a carrier of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes covid-19, would infect.

According to this report, for this Friday the contagion rate or basic number of reproduction of covid-19 in the country was 1.22.

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This means that each carrier would transmit the virus to 1.22 people, or viewed another way, 100 carriers would infect 122.

This number is considered “very high”.

Ideally, the rate R should be less than 1, which means that each group of 100 gives rise to a smaller one.

“An R well above one, as in recent weeks, means a very accelerated exponential increase: doubling in the number of cases diagnosed in less than three weeks. Costa Rica is clearly in the midst of a new epidemic wave that is of greater magnitude than last year,” the report emphasizes.

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The report does clarify that, as the incubation period of the virus is close to six days, what was seen this Friday corresponds to infections that occurred, approximately, on April 17, so the impact of the weekend sanitary vehicle restriction cannot yet be measured.

These are the projections of new cases of covid-19 according to three possible scenarios. Chart: CCP

The analysis made three possible scenarios: a pessimistic one, in which R reaches 1.3, a neutral one, in which it remains close to 1.21, and an optimistic one in which it drops to 1.

In an interview with La Nación, Rosero said that even in the most optimistic scenario, where the number of daily cases would exceed 4,000, more than half of them would require intensive care.

“Even in the optimistic scenario, where we would reach an epidemic peak of 1,800 daily cases (as was the case Saturday), there would be 1,200 hospitalized, 500 of them in ICU. Hospitalizations come with such inertia that they will continue to rise and will exceed 1,000 in the first week of May. There are 1,000 beds that we don’t have, ”he stressed.

“This peak of the optimistic scenario is higher than the already mentioned peak of last year of 1,200 daily,” the document emphasizes.

The third scenario, neutral, is where the number of daily cases would be close to 3,300. 1,800 beds in total would be required, 800 of them in ICUs. “These figures are more than double the installed capacity in the country, which would be exceeded by May 1,” the report cites.

For Rosero, if the behavior of the wave seen in other countries is taken into account, this third scenario is the most likely.

“I would say that this is going to happen in Costa Rica, both because of the actions of the people and because of the decisions that the government will have to make when things get uglier, as it is very likely that it will happen soon,” said Rosero.

These are the projections of hospitalizations, both in the classroom and in the ICU, for covid-19 if all conditions are maintained. Chart: CCP.


For Rosero, the rise in cases is inevitable, for there are people who do not believe in the severity of the situation and feel that “nothing is going to happen to them.”

Rosero added that there is apathy at the social, individual, and institutional level and free movement of people cannot be prohibited, “in other countries, they can’t even leave the house on foot.”

Another inevitability is that this country does not have the number of resources for social assistance to people.

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"Rico" is the crazy mind behind the Q media websites, a series of online magazines where everything is Q! In these times of new normal, stay at home. Stay safe. Stay healthy.

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