Thursday 29 September 2022

Costa Rica’s Constitutional Court To Decide Legality of Vehicular Restrictions

The business sector warns that there would be more unemployment if there is no flexibility; Preventing a new pandemic wave is the government's goal

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29 September 2022 - At The Banks - BCCR

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QCOSTARICA – Regardless of the fact that vaccination would already allow greater commercial openness and fewer vehicle restrictions, President Carlos Alvarado so far refuses to make any measure more flexible, given the danger that Covid-19 infections will increase.

In that sense, health measures – which have been the government’s main weapon against the pandemic – will continue as long as they remain legal. Or there is sufficient pressure from the private sector.

Read more: Key week for the government to define future restrictions

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“The restrictions go very hand in hand with the moment of the pandemic we are in. A week ago the average number of new cases exceeded a thousand infections a day and until now, we are recovering hospital capacity.

“I know it’s awkward, I know we want to get out of this, but we want to get out of this well. I urge that we look at the example of richer countries, more developed, those with a higher level of vaccination, but without herd immunity, led to new pandemic waves,” said President Carlos Alvarado.

However, the days of the controversial restriction could be numbered if it is considered that Sala Constitucional (Constitutional Court) or Sala IV as it is commonly referred, accepted for review an action of unconstitutionality presented by Otto Guevara, former presidential candidate and currently a 2022 legislative candidate for the Unión Liberal party.

Former presidential candidate Otto Guevara, seeking a seat in the 2022 Legislative Assembly is behind the Constitutional Court appeal against the vehicular restrictions. Image from Twitter

For Guevara, the measure violates the most elementary rights of citizens, at the same time that it suffocates commerce and triggers unemployment.

“We have just taken a big step to eliminate the sanitary vehicle restriction. The Constitutional Court has given effect to the action of unconstitutionality that I filed in favor of eliminating the sanitary vehicle restriction,” Guevara said last week on his Twitter account.

Backing the move by the politician are businessmen attached to the Chamber of Commerce, who demand greater openness, among other private sector groups, who consider that modifying the hours of the sanitary vehicle restriction and allowing businesses – including bars and restaurants – to open until 11:00 pm., would translate into almost 30,000 jobs.

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And, it is that the fight against Covid-19 is not won with measures that suffocate the economy, but with an agile vaccination throughout the country.

Today unemployment in Costa Rica remains above 17%, while informality rose close to 50%.

If the sanitary restriction measures are not relaxed, it is possible that there will be new layoffs, the business sector warns.

“From different sectors, we have come together to call on the government to request that the sanitary vehicle restriction start at 11:00 pm instead of 9:00 pm and it is eliminated during the weekends, as measures that allow us to protect employment and increase the sales of many companies in the country,” said Julio Castilla, President of the Costa Rican Chamber of Commerce.

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In that sense, extending the vehicle restriction until 11:00 pm would mean an increase in sales of 20%, an increase in formal employment that would help thousands of families.

“The sanitary vehicle restriction is opposed to the objectives of economic reactivation, in a context where unemployment has skyrocketed and clandestine parties and meetings have increased, which far from solving the problem, exacerbates it,” said Jorge Figueroa, President of the Costa Rican Chamber of Restaurants.

Editor’s note: On some social networks the sanitary vehicle restrictions has been confused with a “curfew” of people being able to go out from their homes during certain times. Costa Rica has never had such a curfew, people can and do go out at any time of day or night, on foot, on a bicycle, public transport (ie tourism vehicles, taxi, bus), or in a private car exempted such as in an emergency or dropping off or picking up travelers at an international airport, among others.

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