Every country had its own approach to the Covid-19 pandemic crisis.  As it turns out, Costa Rica’s handling of the pandemic was one of the most successful in the world.  The Costa Rica government learned quickly that the first two cases introducing the Covid-19 virus were traced to tourists from the United States and Canada. Soon thereafter, Costa Rica became one of the first countries to shut its borders and order the closure of schools, recreational facilities, gyms, theaters, beaches, and bars to limit social interaction.  The remaining tourists were instructed to leave immediately on the remaining flights.  Residents and residency applicants were instructed that if they left the country that they would lose their residency and/or applications and would not be allowed to return until Costa Rica reopened.

Many businesses closed, including most restaurants with only a few having either limited hours with only 50% occupancy permitted and weekend closures and others only having order pick-up and/or very limited delivery. Along with many restrictions came a “curfew’ with people required to be off the roads in the evening until the early morning to allow for better transportation of needed supplies, personnel and trucking of goods. Later, daytime driving was limited to certain end numbers on license plates for each day.  There were stiff fines and seizure of license plates for those violating the driving hours. All public social gatherings were banned.

Additional restrictions were added to prevent expected increased socializing during Easter Week, the biggest holiday in Costa Rica when families gather and celebrate.  Daily license numbers allowed to drive were reduced even more along with an earlier road closure hour, with travel limited to grocery shopping and medical treatment only for that week. Afterwards, the former less onerous restrictions were restored.  During this time, cases steadily rose, but only incrementally and never going over 600 active cases with many recoveries.  Less than ten deaths were recorded through April.

By late April, Costa Rica’s only had fewer than five hundred active cases and less than 20 new cases for 20 straight days.  The recovery rate was increasing dramatically as well. At that time, there were no active cases in the entire province of Guanacaste, which only ever had 2 active cases at most.  It was at this point that the Costa Rica government began a partial reopening of business and facilities, commencing on May 1.

So, how was Costa Rica, a country with no army since 1948, able to control what most other countries couldn’t? It was a combination of swift, decisive governmental action coupled with cooperation of its citizenry.  At first, hundreds of citations were issued for those going on the beach and driving during late hours. Then, everyone got on board.  Very few ever wore gloves or masks as they were not needed. The grocery stores promoted social distancing and provided sanitizer.

And how was it to leave in Costa Rica during this time? Very pleasant although a little more limited as you could not go out to eat much and were not permitted to use the beach.  But, people quickly adapted. Neighbors helped each other with getting supplies and home maintenance.  There was no panic buying and no food shortages of any kind since Costa Rica is nearly 100% independent in both energy and food production. Many food drives were initiated to make sure poor people did not have to live with food insecurity.  Musicians performed online. People adapted and did not complain or disobey in large numbers.

Everyone remembered that Costa Rica’s beauty had not diminished and they noticed it more.  The beaches looked pristine. The sunsets were beautiful.  People embraced simpler life and doing for themselves more.  It all worked just fine.  So, Costa became more than one of the most friendly place on Earth, it also became on of the safest.

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