Due to the high number of passengers who will require COVID-19 diagnostic tests to travel to the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Spain, the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) promoted an agreement with the Costa Rican Chamber of Health, to provide an efficient, secure and cost-effective access to these tests in private laboratories.
Starting next January 26, the United States, the main tourist market in Costa Rica, will require all travelers who enter by plane to present the negative result of SARS-CoV-2. The USA accepts RT-PCR and antigen tests as valid tests. The latter will be allowed by MINSA only to meet travel requirements to the US, but not as a diagnostic test in Costa Rica.
Meanwhile, since January 18, the United Kingdom requires a negative RT-PCR result to enter that country, and in previous weeks Canada and Spain have requested the same test. The four countries are priority markets for Costa Rica.
To facilitate compliance with these requirements and as part of the agreement, the Costa Rican Chamber of Health – an organization that represents the country’s private health sector – established a network of 130 clinical laboratories with the capacity to perform the tests efficiently and safely, authorized by the Ministry of Health in all regions of the country.
In the case of RT-PCR tests, the agreement guarantees that the results will be delivered within a maximum of 48 hours for both samples taken inside and outside the GAM. The Costa Rican Chamber of Health will be in charge of monitoring these, and if necessary, will notify ICT promptly to inform passengers so that they can take their forecasts. Antigen tests are less expensive than PCR and the result is in minutes.
Support for the recovery of the tourism sector
Gustavo Segura, Minister of Tourism, pointed out that “this is a new challenge in times of Pandemic that we must resolve while seeking the gradual recovery of our tourism sector.
This agreement seeks to solve the logistical challenge of facilitating access to diagnostic tests for COVID-19 and ensuring that results delivery times are met, which is key both for foreign tourism that returns home and for outbound tourism, that is, for the Costa Rican population that travels mainly to the United States.
Likewise, Massimo Manzi, executive director of the Chamber, affirmed “we celebrate this public-private alliance through which the country and all tourists who decide to visit us will benefit so that they have the security of having quick and safe access to a COVID-19 test”.
Finally, Manzi commented that the private health sector and its clinical laboratories have been preparing during these months to stock up promptly and offer testing services efficiently and in compliance with the highest standards of quality and patient safety.
On the other hand, as Minister Segura explained, to guide tourists and avoid speculation, a maximum cost of USD 100 is being recommended for RT-PCR tests carried out in GAM institutions and a maximum cost of USD 150 for tests carried outside the GAM, due to the costs related to transferring of personnel and samples, among others. The reference cost for antigen tests is yet to be defined once they begin to be marketed in the country.
The ICT, in conjunction with the Chamber, will inform the private tourism sector so that it serves as a link with the passengers, and there is agile access to the tests and with a minimum interruption of their stay.
Additionally, the ICT and the Costa Rican Chamber of Health will work on a possible training of airline personnel for the proper reading of the results of each laboratory and recognition as to their validity.