(QCOSTARICA) The Minister of Health, Daniel Salas, at the noon presser on Monday said that starting Saturday, June 27, the use of face masks or shields will be mandatory for people who carry out the following activities.
- Employees who serve the public in any office, business or institution.
- Waiters who take the order in restaurants must necessarily wear face masks, not shields.
- Passengers traveling on buses, trains or taxis.
- Restaurant customers (while not eating) and banks.
- Attendees to churches, cinemas and theaters.
Salas clarified that the use of face masks or shields is considered only for closed places and, therefore, it is not mandatory for pedestrians or people who are in open places or supermarkets.
“Pedestrians do not have to wear masks, it is for those who enter places or board public transport, for restaurants, those are the ones who must use them,” said the minister.
The minister emphasized that wearing a mask represents a responsibility since the person must not only ensure its proper use but also correct final disposal after use.
This measure was released after the Health Minister confirmed that the country accumulated 64 new cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, increasing total number of infected to 2,277 in 77 of 82 cantons.
The report details that 1,043 people have recovered and that there are 28 people hospitalized, four of whom are in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
However, Salas insisted that the main rules to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus such as hand washing, not touching your face, and maintaining a distance of 1.8 meters cannot be ignored.
The minister recommended reusable masks, as they allow long-term use. On the other hand, if the disposables get damp, they must be replaced. “They can be surgical or fabric and the masks must have general facial coverage since it is important that they cover the mouth and nose properly,” he said.
Fines for non-compliance
The Minister warned that those responsible for establishments must ensure compliance with the new provision or, otherwise, risk fines and even the cancellation of their operating permit.
In the case of buses and taxis, for example, the Public Transport Council (CTP) confirmed Monday afternoon that public transport drivers may refuse to provide the service to a passenger who refuses to use a face covering.
The National Chamber of Transport (Canatrans) expressed satisfaction with the measure.
The Costa Rican Chamber of Restaurants and Related (Cacore) also applauded the decision.
“Weeks ago, restaurants, all or the vast majority, had already been applying the use of a mask and some other devices, but in any case, we aligned ourselves with the protocols and guidelines and take care of the health of our customers,” said Jorge Figueroa, president of Cacore.
Although health authorities refused for weeks to endorse the use of masks, Salas explained that the change in position is due to the increase in infections in recent days. Last Friday, 119 new cases were registered, the highest number in a single day, so far.
“Every day, with the cases we have been having, we are getting dangerously close to community transmission. We take this measure (masks) to avoid more infections when, in addition, we are in a process of reopening,” he explained.
Why did phase 3 reponing stop?
Minister Daniel Salas announced that the Government will, in the course of the week, announce on how the third phase of reopening the economy will be resumed, which was suspended last Friday due to the rebound in cases of COVID-19.
Salas said he understood the annoyance expressed, mainly by the trade, against the decision to suspend the new stage on the eve of a weekend, leaving retailers and other businesses hanging only 24 hours after announcing the start of phase 3 had a lot to do with Father’s Day and the concern of clustering in malls in particular.
The Minister said the suspension was agreed upon the different authorities dealing with the pandemic on the report of 119 cases, as said before the highest ever since the first case back in March and 10 times the daily increases until the beginning of the this month.
“I know there is a lot of need to reactivate (the economy), but in an exponential curve with people dying every 10 minutes (in the world), maintaining an economic revival is impossible. But if there is no commitment from all entrepreneurs, we cannot make the decision,” said Salas.
In a sense, he maintained that it was a preventive decision to prevent us from counting hundreds of cases in the coming days.
“We are trying to enable phases for activities that have been suspended or decreased, but if we have expanded transmission here or dozens of deaths per day, commercial activity will automatically contract. This is why we have to guard it jealously (…).
“To have advanced in a responsible sanitary way, that is an incentive because it tells the world that we did things well and we can receive tourism without a problem, I ask for restraint and that they see further and that Costa Rica has escaped a critical situation,” he stated.
“This (phase 3) is postponed not to harm, here we are protecting people from dying in a matter of days. And that is not the recourse to the fear of the Government, as they say in other countries, developed countries have had to pile up the dead,” he said.
Costa Rica is in a second pandemic wave that began to hit the vulnerable population, such as agricultural workers, in the northern part of the country and now also populous cantons of the Greater Metropolitan Area (GAM), such as Desamparados and Alajuelita.