Costa Rica accumulates seven days of a sustained reduction in active cases and the lowest mortality derived from the epidemic outbreak on the continent. While other countries in the Americas face the worst phase of the Coronavirus epidemic.
Once again, our stable Central American democracy emerges as the best of its kind, with an advantageous universal public health system and a population that, for the most part, has complied with the sanitary measures issued by the Government.
The sum of new cases in the last seven days is 40 and recovered, 110. This allowed active cases to decrease from 564 to 495 in the country of 5 million inhabitants. Meanwhile, the United States is about to take the place of Europe as the new focus of the epidemic, after surpassing the million infected.
The Costa Rican health authorities report presents six deaths associated with COVID-19. This places the case fatality rate at 0.9%, the lowest among countries on the continent, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University, in the United States. Only 12 Coronavirus patients were registered into hospitals in the country. Of these, only two required intensive care, which makes 86 ICU beds still available.
“The response, in general from the population, has been satisfactory. They have understood the historical moment we are experiencing,” Health Minister Daniel Salas said on a press conference. “We have had a slight decrease (in active cases), but we are walking on a very fragile floor, because the vast majority of people have not been infected. So we must be aware that a lot is still to be done,” he added.
Although there are no conclusive explanations, experts attribute the good results, so far, to the comprehensive and universal health system, to the early detection of cases and to the majority compliance with the measures that the Ministry of Health recommends every day: hygiene, quarantine and physical distancing.
According to a Google report, based on mobile phone statistics, visits to shops and recreational places in Costa Rica fell 84% and to parks and beaches 82%; similar numbers to countries like Peru, which imposed a mandatory quarantine. In the absence of a curfew endorsed by the Constitution, vehicle traffic was restricted and fines for violators were increased.
“There are hypotheses that must be verified and what must happen in the following weeks must be seen, but I do believe that a success has been the strict follow-up of the cases to see the transmission chains,” infectologist María Luisa Ávila told Reuters, Minister of Health in two previous governments.
Although opposition deputies ask for massive tests, the Ministry of Health responds that it applies the necessary ones, according to the suspected cases they register. The official figure is 11,776 tests, 235 per 100,000 inhabitants, an amount that places the country at the midpoint in Latin America.
The slow progress of the disease in Costa Rica contrasts with that of its southern neighbor, Panama, which accumulates 4,992 cases of Coronavirus and 144 deaths, with a population close to 4.2 million inhabitants, one million less than Costa Rica.
In Nicaragua, the neighbor to the north, the Government only reports 10 cases and two deaths, although independent doctors and international organizations fear that the registry is far from reality. In fact, the laxity of Nicaragua, which has not suspended massive events, worries Costa Rica, whose government said it does not rule out taking international actions and asking the World Health Organization (WHO) to supervise the actions of the Daniel Ortega administration.