Tuesday 7 February 2023

“Eliminating the mask was not a populist decision”: Joselyn Chacón, New Minister of Health

At the time a complicated pandemic scenario occurs, new sanitary measures could be applied. Health is much more than the COVID-19 and that there is much to do, to meet the objectives

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7 February 2023 - At The Banks - BCCR

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QCOSTARICA – Within days of the Health portfolio, Joselyn Chacón, the new minister of health, lives tense moments and a lot of controversy.

And it is that President Rodrigo Chaves shook the country by eliminating the mandatory use of the mask and incidentally, questioning the demand for vaccination against COVID-19, and then retracting the latter, on Wednesday.

Joselyn Chacón, Minister of Health: “This virus has taught us a lot, and after so long we know that taking care of ourselves also implies washing our hands, maintaining distancing. What we are giving is a vote of trust. Pandemic management is not exclusive to the government, it is everyone”.

However, Chacón points out that at no time they were populist measures, while she makes it clear that, if merits, the Ministry of Health could impose health measures to stop the fifth wave of the pandemic that Costa Rica is now experiencing.

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In an interview with La Republica, Chacón talked about the reasons for both criteria, especially at the time of sustained growth of new diagnoses during the last three weeks.

“We are in a fifth pandemic wave that could be related to the realization of mass events, where thousands of people were grouped, with the absence of social distancing; as well as cases post Holy Week.

“The first thing that the population must take into account is that the decree, which is already official, does not speak at any time of a prohibition of the use of the mask, rather, what we want is to grant that confidence in people, so that, that, voluntarily and responsible, they can evaluate their risk and determine at what time it is prudent to use it,” said Chacón.

The new minister also refuted that decision lacked scientific studies and an analysis of epidemiological behavior. “This decision is due to a world vision, which is also based on the vaccination rate that the country has at the moment and the variant we already had. On the other hand.

“I assure you that at the time that another restrictive type must be taken, whether by an exponential increase in cases, or by changes in medical care patterns,” emphasized Chacón, adding that “our decision should never be interpreted as a populist or political decision.”

The minister highlights the fact that Costa Rica has reached a high immunization, more than 80% of the population has their first dose, with almost the same number having their second.

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The country is currently applying a fourth dose to people over 50 years of age or are in the risk group. The fourth dose is not mandatory.

Also, explained the Health minister, the behavior of the variants, where “we have noticed that, although they are still dangerous, their lethality is lower.”

On the controversial about face, more specifically, Rodrigo Chaves announcing at the time of signing his first decree as the new president on May 8 that vaccination would no longer be mandatory, but on Wednesday, May 11, in the text published in La Gaceta, read different, that the government urges companies and government not to dismiss workers who have not vaccinated, Chacón said “our message will always be clear, vaccination, it has been, is and will continue to be a guarantee of protection, which minimizes the risks of a complication against infection and with it an eventual saturation in hospitals.”

Probed further, Chacón was asked if she thought both decrees represent a setback.

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“No, we trust the population’s self-care criteria, but we will also work on motivation campaigns that encourage people to protect themselves, either with masks, but above all with vaccines, without a criterion of mandatory.

“We are giving that opportunity to decide responsibly. This virus has taught us a lot and after so long we know that taking care of ourselves also implies washing our hands, and maintaining distancing, so we are giving a vote of trust. Pandemia management is not exclusive to the government, it is from everyone,” was the minister’s reply.

Over the weekend, in a tour of several retail centers and outlets, the use of the mask was a mixed bag. Staff all locations visited was mandated, as is the right of an employer, to wear the mask, and the use by customers was 50/50.


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