Costa Rica’s Minister of Health has warned that the novel coronavirus will arrive in Costa Rica. Although the country has no suspected or confirmed case, in the words of Minister Daniel Salas, “We cannot prevent it from reaching our country (…) there will be no country to be saved.”

It’s not a matter of if, but when the coronavirus will arrive in Costa Rica

The coronavirus COVID-19 is a respiratory virus. It’s spread in a similar way to the common cold or to influenza. It’s spread through coughs and sneezes. So everyday sensible measures that people to do every year with the flu are important here — covering your cough, staying home when you’re sick and washing your hands.

The US Department of Homeland Security, on its website, recommends a number of things that Americans can do before a pandemic strikes.

We can take some of those recommendations and apply them here, at home, in Costa Rica.

1. Store a two-week supply of water and food, as well as over-the-counter medications you tend to take. Have any nonprescription drugs and other health supplies on hand, including pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough, and cold medicines, fluids with electrolytes, and vitamins.

2. Travelers should avoid all nonessential travel to mainland China and South Korea; to consider postponing nonessential travel to Italy, Iran, and Japan.

Regarding whether there are places to avoid in your community, such as the grocery store, health officials recommend to simply be mindful of avoiding close contact with people who may be sick. Also, if you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.

3.  If your child is sick, it’s important to keep them home from school in order to protect other students from getting sick. Talk to employers about whether working online (from home) will be an option if needed.

4. What if I have to go to the doctor? Talk to your doctor’s office about options, like a home visit.

5. Do you need a facemask? In the U.S., the CDC does not recommend that people who well wear facemasks. Rather, the CDC recommends to only wear a mask if a health care professional recommends it. A facemask should be used by people who have the novel coronavirus and are showing symptoms — that is in order to protect others from the risk of getting infected.

6. How can you avoid getting sick? There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease, so the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus.There are several things to do to prevent the spread of any respiratory diseases:

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and throw the tissue away
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water

7. If someone in your household has the virus — or thinks they do? – the best way to first determine whether you have the virus is to get tested. Costa Rica now has the ability to obtain test results in 12 to 24 hours.

An infected person might not show symptoms for up to 14 days after exposure. That’s especially worrisome because this novel coronavirus can be transmitted while a person isn’t showing any symptoms. Fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat and trouble breathing are some of the most common symptoms of the novel coronavirus.

8. If you have questions about the novel coronavirus, reach out to the Ministerio de Salud (in Spanish) or find more information (in English) on the CDC’s website at www.cdc.gov.

For the tourism sector

The Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT) on Wednesday called on the national tourism industry to work hand in hand with the Ministry of Health and the Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CCSS).

The main recommendations for the tourism sector are:

  • Identify a coordinator that defines the roles and responsibilities of each employee in preparation and response to the alert and that this is the contact person to guarantee the dissemination of the information provided by the Ministry of Health, both to all staff and to suppliers and tourists who use their services.
  • Implement in the company the prevention measures recommended by the health authorities.
  • Provide staff access to health services if there are cases with suspicious symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Keep bathrooms stocked with toilet paper, hand soap, disposable paper towel or electric hand dryer.
  • Place posters in visible places on hand washing and cough and sneeze protocol.
  • Clean all doorknobs, washbasin handles, toilets, telephones, keyboards and computer devices disinfectant or alcohol, at least 2 times a day.
  • Keep workplaces ventilated, without creating sudden drafts.

The Ministry of Health also recommends that owners or tourist administrators identify the public health services closest to which a person with suspicious symptoms of coronavirus (telephone, address and means of transport to provide the service) may be referred and in the case for hotel services, select the rooms that meet the best conditions to apply the “isolation” preventive measures and strict follow-up to contacts if necessary.