QCOSTARICA – The sanitary vehicular restriction has been “effective” and must be maintained as a tool to contain the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 pandemic because it reduces the mobility of people, discourages parties or night social events, and reduces crashes on the road, that have a direct impact on the need for hospital beds.
This was the response by the Minister of Health, Daniel Salas, and the Minister of Transport, Rodolfo Méndez Mata, in a response to Ombudswoman, Catalina Crespo, who questioned the continuity of the health measure since mid-October past.
The Ministers also pointed out that the restriction has always had exceptions for workers and for emergency situations, so it should not be argued that the use of other means of transport involving conglomerations has been encouraged.
Both Salas and Méndez emphasized that the stricter application in an initial phase made it possible to cut the contagion and avoid an early collapse of hospital services, in particular the limited number of Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds.
The Ministers stand by their decision to continue the measure, saying that the ICU system would have collapsed and impossible to determine in most cases the place where outbreaks in infection was taking place.
A reduction of traffic accidents is another benefit of the night time restrictions, which often represent a significant burden on valuable medical services.
“(It was possible) to reduce the burden of ICUs due to serious traffic accidents, many of which occur late at night or in the early morning, which lowers the pressure on the health system and allows for more ICU beds to treat serious patients due to Covid-19,” they pointed out.
Data from the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS) quantified a reduction of 43.5% in medical service and 31% in fatalities from traffic accidents, between January and September 2020 (compared to last year).
The ministers also stand firm that all current legal frameworks are respected and that constitutional and legal mandates are followed, such as the protection of life and health, using exceptional emergency mechanisms.
Fewer parties, fewer infections
Health and Transport authorities affirmed that the main objective of the measure is to restrict mobility and consequently infections, and were emphatic in the value of the measure to contain night activities such as parties or social gatherings between different social bubbles.
“It is necessary to explain that in late hours of the night and in the early morning, the mechanisms for monitoring human activities decrease and the risk of parties and the like increases exponentially, with subsequent displacements that lead to infections that are generated throughout the world. country”.
“In addition, there has been historically an increase in serious traffic accidents that require beds in health services, critical and scarce at this time of the pandemic,” they indicated.
The authorities also referred to international studies, published in renowned scientific journals, which included experiences from the United States, Italy, China, and the United Kingdom.
Regarding the impact of the measure on production issues, they stressed that exceptions to the norm for freight transport, workers (with an employer letter), public transport, special services, essential services and emergency situations are continued.
Currently, there is a total restriction (save for the exemptions) from 10:00 pm to 5:00 am on weekdays and 9:00 pm to 5:00 am on weekends.
Weekdays, from 5:00 am to 10:00 pm, the restrictions are based on the last digit of the vehicle license plate, vehicles with license plates ending on 1 and 2 do not circulate on Mondays, 3 and 4 on Tuesdays, 5 and 6 on Wednesdays, 7 and 8 on Thursdays, and 9 and 0 on Fridays.
No daytime restrictions (from 5:00 am to 9:00 pm) are in effect on Saturdays and Sundays.
“Considering the aforementioned elements, given the current epidemiological situation in Costa Rica and the world due to COVID-19 and the installed capacity of the hospital system in the country, the Executive Branch is called to maintain the efforts and strengthen, in accordance with the current regulations, prevention measures due to the risk in the advance of an outbreak.
“This being the case, given the effectiveness of the sanitary vehicle restriction as part of the actions to contain the spread of the virus, we reiterate the strategic importance and justification of said measure,” concludes the message sent to Crespo.