(QCOSTARICA) Empty, but ready to receive, is the way to describe the Juan Santamaria international airport (SJO) on Saturday, August 1, the first day of the reopening of the air terminal to tourists.
Costa Rica barred the arrival of foreign tourists on March 18, a total of 135 days.
It will not be until tomorrow, Monday, August 3, when the first commercial flight lands at the San Jose airport from Madrid, Spain.
The Iberia flight, with 250 people including some nationals, arrived Monday afternoon at its pre-pandemic time slot. The flight then turns around the next day for Madrid.
For their part, foreigners must process the necessary requirements to be able to travel to our country, such as being negative for the COVID-19 PCR test, contracting insurance that covers medical expenses and additional accommodation, in case of having to quarantine or re-closing of air borders.
Rafael Mencía, director of Aeris, the private company operator of the air terminal, affirmed that, since sales to flights with international tourists were closed, on March 18, they have worked on the protocols to reactivate its operation.
“There are a number of procedures and implementations like sanitizing mats. We have a supply of gels throughout the airport, as well as the addition of lavatories to give passengers the possibility of complying with the recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO), which speaks of hand hygiene as the main mechanism of prevention.
“We also have social distancing, wherever there is a process with lines. We have studied the capacity of the airport, we have studied how to put passengers 1.8 meters between each other so that there is no possibility of contagion,” said Mencia.
Other measures include the mandatory wearing of a mask or shield inside the terminal.
Additionally, international tourists will need to fill out an online form before landing, known as the Health Pass.
For now, only about five flights a week have been authorized to operate, which represents, according to Aeris, 1% of the operation that was handled before the start of the pandemic.
Rodolfo Méndez, Minister of Public Works and Transport, stated that the protocols guarantee the health care of those who use both the Santamaría and the Daniel Oduber International Airport (LIR), in Liberia, Guanacaste.
“We have prepared ourselves by preparing rigorous protocols for the operation of international airports and today we can say that we are fully prepared for the authorization issued by the Ministry of Health so that we can guarantee health protection of both workers and those who use these facilities for tourism or those who enter or leave the country for reasons of a different nature,” said Méndez.
At the moment, only the San Jose airport will receive flights from Europe for this month and then Canada as well starting in mid-September.
The Liberia airport, however, will continue without receiving commercial flights, since the airlines they have confirmed are from the United States and the government has not given the authorization to receive flights from that country, taking into account its epidemiological situation.
According to Aeris, constant cleaning and disinfection of luggage trays and trolleys in terminals, pay stations in parking lots, internal buses, self-check kiosks, toilets and baby changers, among others are a priority.
The airport will also have a special area for COVID-19 suspected cases, and an increase in the frequency of cleaning and disinfection in high traffic areas (service counters, door handles, armrests, handrails, water sources, elevators, etc.).
The commercial area inside the terminal will have strict protocols that include no product tastings or samples, promoting the use of contactless pay, common areas limited to 50% capacity, and respecting social distancing.
There are basically two types of users coming and going form the San Jose airport: foreign tourists and Costa Rican nationals and residents.
Requirements when entering the country
- Tourists must have a PCR test and negative result 48 hours before the trip.
- Tourists must acquire travel insurance from the State insurer, INS, that covers quarantine accommodation and medical expenses for acute illness.
- The airlines must inform passengers, with final destination Costa Rica and prior to arrival in the country, that they must complete the online form known as the Health Pass.
- Body temperature measurements will be carried out on all passengers and must pass through disinfecting rugs.
- Once the immigration process is finished, there is signage for the distance of travel bubbles around the baggage carousels until continuing with the Customs and the State Phytosanitary Service processes.
- Costa Ricans and legal residents need not have the COVID test or purchase the INS insurance, bu must also fill out the health form and will be issued a 14-day self-isolation order.
Requirements when leaving the country
- Airlines should facilitate online checking in to make processes more efficient.
- Arrival time at the airport with at least 3 hours before departure or 4 hours for long-haul flights.
- Only international passengers will enter the departures hall of the terminal.
The use of masks is mandatory.
- Temperature measurements, with thermal cameras, will be made at the access bridges to the departures level.
- At boarding gates the use of the seats will be limited; In case of travel bubbles, they can use all the seats.
- The airline will establish procedures to organize the boarding process for small groups (10 passengers), starting with passengers at the rear of the plane.
- Passengers waiting to board should be waiting sitting, no standing in line.