Wednesday 22 March 2023

How will the QR code work to verify vaccination when entering shops?

Review to enter establishments should take only a few seconds; merchants question the measure that will be applied from December 1

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QCOSTARICA – Starting December 1, anyone who wants to enter shops, restaurants, bars and other places of recreation or special events must demonstrate that they have a complete vaccination against covid-19. To do this, they will have to present their vaccination certificate using a QR code.

As of December, by order of the Ministry of Health, it will be necessary to present a complete vaccination certificate against covid-19 in the form of a QR code to enter shops, restaurants and other recreational or leisure establishments.

Although a version of this code already exists, a new one is in the process of being designed, as is the digital self-management system for the vaccination certificate. Initially, they would be ready on November 8, but now the Government is trying to advance their launch to the end of this month.

An inter-institutional team is working on the new QR that would be safer compared to the current one, as well as on establishing how the access will be to the different establishments and events where it is requested.

But what is a QR code?

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The technology behind this requirement is called QR or Quick Response – code is basically a barcode on steroids and consists of coded images that automatically activate verification processes. You don’t have to write anything, just a camera on a cell phone and a mobile application.

The QR has been used for years and consists of a square pattern filled with other small black and white squares in a sequence that allows access to information in a database.

The squares (whether white or black) represent numbers from 0 to 9, letters from A to Z or characters in other alphabets such as Japanese, among others, where in 1994 it was created by the Japanese corporation Denso Wave, which is a subsidiary of Toyota, to quickly track vehicle parts on assembly lines.

For the QR that the Ministry of Health is preparing, businesses will require a mobile application from that Ministry that allows the codes to be read (whose design is also in process) and thus enable people vaccinated to enter the establishments.

According to Health forecasts, each business must make arrangements for someone at the entrance to verify with their mobile application, which will be installed on a cell phone or other device (a tablet, for example). With this device, it will make a “scan” or read the QR code that the visitor presents.

As is already the case in other countries of the world, when you show your code, the person who receives it at the entrance will focus the camera of the cell phone or reading device on the graphic from the Health mobile application.

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This will automatically verify your vaccination certificate and then there will be confirmation that you can enter. The entire process should take a few seconds.

Apart from the digital QR, people can also carry their certificate on paper. Any of the forms of presentation must be verified and match the identity of the bearer.

Doubts, complaints and consequences

What is the exposure for businesses that refuse to request the QR from their customers since December exposed?

To fines, temporary suspensions of the Health permit, and definitive closures, the Ministry of Health responded to inquiries.

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In the event of the first offense, businesses will be fined ¢464,300 colones and the establishment will be closed for 15 calendar days. At the second fault, the suspension will be for 30 calendar days and, the third will result in a permanent closure of the business, which will then have to reapply for the Health permit.

Health warned that the police, both the Fuerza Publica (National Police) and Policia Municipal (Municipal Police forces) have the power to act as a health authority to verify both health protocols and the revision of codes when it is implemented. Surprise visits to establishments are planned.

The Ministry of Health even called workers from businesses where this provision is breached to report them.

Restless merchants

Merchants, meanwhile, have some doubts and criticisms of the plan.

José Francisco Quesada, president of the Association of Bars and Restaurants (Asobares) said that if the code is to be requested, they would then want to open at 100% of their capacity.

On November 1, capacity remains at 50% and increases to 75% in December, according to the announcement of the sanitary measures announced last week that runs through to December 31.

“If you ask for this code, you should be open 100%, this issue was mishandled by the authorities, as they did not consider the different productive sectors beforehand. We all have to be responsible and get vaccinated, but it requires more analysis,” declared Quesada.

Julio Castilla Peláez, president of the Costa Rican Chamber of Commerce, also questioned the obligation to request complete vaccination from all clients. He assured that they rather wait for the Ministry of Economy to meet with the different sectors in order to detail what the Executive will do to facilitate the possibility of validating the codes for businesses “among those who do decide to implement the entrance only for the vaccinated”.

“We agree that this applies, but as long as 100% of Costa Ricans have had access to the code or to someone from the official authority to help them obtain the certification, if they have already been vaccinated. Otherwise, there could be an undue exclusion by the authorities of fully vaccinated people,” he said.

Where is the QR code to be used?

The sites where you will be required to be vaccinated to enter are recreational.

Supermarkets, pharmacies or health centers are excluded; Nor will it be required in churches or services with less than 500 attendees and where social distancing of at least 1.8 meters between people or bubbles is kept, or to go to the polls in the February national elections.

The events for which immunization will be required are divided into 11 categories:

  • Restaurants, sodas, cafes and food parks (food courts or food trucks).
  • Bars and casinos.
  • Shops and shopping centers.
  • Museums
  • Fitness centers.
  • Hotels, cabins, accommodation establishments.
  • Spas.
  • Event rooms for business, academic or social activities.
  • Adventure trips.
  • Theaters, cinemas, art and dance academies, artistic activity establishments.
  • Sports activities.


The question has arisen this past week, what of tourists visiting the country. Will they require a QR code and how do they get it?

The Ministry of Health, nor the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT) – tourism board, have yet to deal with this subject, which becomes of relative importance with each passing day as we approach December 1 and the start of the “high tourist” season.

At the Q we are preparing a letter to both the Ministry of Health and Tourism Board for clarity on this matter. We invite you to post your comments on our official Facebook page, Twitter or email at


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"Rico" is the crazy mind behind the Q media websites, a series of online magazines where everything is Q! In these times of new normal, stay at home. Stay safe. Stay healthy.

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