Health Minister, Dr. Daniel Salas, talks about the experiences of the 50 days of covid-19 in Costa Rica, and the numerous lessons learned.
The country learned, for example, the importance of promoting teletrabajo (work from home), not only for companies and workers: also because it is good for the environment, the relevance of maintaining basic hygienic measures, such as strict handwashing; with potential to save lives despite being so simple.
Costa Ricans also learned not to expose themselves in public places if it is not absolutely necessary; above all, using the internet or a phone call. They learned to protect their seniors by joining efforts from the public and private sectors to deliver medicines to their doorsteps, or through medical consults by phone.
The accumulated experience, which until now has had good results, could see, this Monday, April 27, President Carlos Alvarado Quesada, and Minister Salas, announce (as was advanced Thursday at the midday press briefing) changes in the mitigation measures that have allowed Costa Rica to keep under control the contagion and deaths from the new coronavirus.
Up to Friday, April 24, 687 people had been confirmed with covid-19; six of them died.
For more than a week there have been more recoveries than new infections: 216 recoveries and for many consecutive days, the number of active cases dropped. There are fewer people in hospitals and in intensive care.
The famous curve has remained stable, despite the behavior of some, who have insisted on taking to the streets when they don’t need to, not even respecting the vehicular restriction.
“But be careful!” The Minister of Health does not tire of warning us, that we are still walking on eggshells.
The new normality that everyone talks about and echoed by Salud, will quickly come to a halt and we will be returning to the “quarantines”, sta at home and other measures, if infections, deaths, and hospitalized increase rapidly.
This is how we will live from now on: in a give and take of regulations until a vaccine or an effective cure for the new coronavirus is found.
In a telephone interview with La Nacion, Daniel Salas, conducted an hour after the virtual press conference that he held on Thursday, April 23, at Casa Presidencial, said that “What we are going to announce (on Monday) is how we are going to move with certain parameters, always watching the curve”.
The Minister did not want to advance any specific details, lessening the impact on Monday, but noted the experience of Singapore, which had controlled the curve, but did not take into account their immigration situation, living in rooming hours and the cases shot up.
“No one is an expert at knowing the exact route, but the fact of having navigated for several consecutive weeks with covid-19 gives us some perspective on how we can do a stabilization, if you will. We would like to have that crystal ball to know what will happen if we let go here and there. You have to let go to see what happens; if not, we go backwards”.
“Timely decisions. Among them, the suspension of massive concentrations attributed to the favorable numbers of patients and hospitalizations in the case of Costa Rica,” said Salas.
Among the right calls was the suspension of massive events, noted the Minister. “If we had waited a week or a little longer when very big events were coming, we could have had a more difficult curve to control,” said Salas.
Other measures that Salas attributes to Costa Rica’s low number of infections and deaths is the closing of borders and the suspension of the school year, decreased vehicular circulation at night and closure of businesses that had face-to-face contact with customers, such as retail stores, malls, bars, casinos and more.
“Nor can I detract from the social response. Yes, there have been some difficult moments because it is a hard situation, but in general, there has been an important commitment from the population, not from all, but it has been understood that we cannot wait to shed tears for more people in the ICU to wait to take the corresponding actions.
“The country has come together. They are all collaborating: private companies, academia, legislators, the Judiciary … because we all bear the burden of responsibility for covid-19,” said Salas.
In the interview, Minister Salas did not want to tip his hand of what is to come next week or the next or the next after that, what restrictions will be loosened, those not or what the new normal will be on the other side of the pandemic.
Salas has not waivered in siding with caution, insisting that we’re not out of the woods yet, that “we are still in a fragile scenario”.
“We have to be very careful handling ourselves in this difficult line, where the social and economic part also comes into play. If we move to one side, we affect the economic and social, but we can also affect people’s health and life.
“We have to program ourselves because we have to drive on that difficult route, not always so clear to see,” concluded Salas.