Tourism Industry Pushbacks Stall The Program
Costa Rica’s new vaccine passport program has been temporarily suspended as the courts deliberate its implementation. A decision on the ruling is set to be made by Thursday at the latest.
The country does not currently have any restrictions on entry, but the new QR code based passport will render any unvaccinated visitors unable to enter virtually any restaurants, hotels, or other public spaces. Only certain essential businesses are allowed to have non-vaccinated customer, such as pharmacies.
As of right now, visitors to Costa Rica are not required to show proof of vaccinations, PCR tests, or undergo any quarantine. For a time, it was one of the only countries in the world with no COVID related regulations. But the new passport, although not technically stopping anyone from entering, will almost certainly deter any unvaccinated tourists to the country.
Under the suspended rules, as of December 1st, Costa Rican business would be allowed to work at 100% capacity if they verified the vaccination status of all of their customers. By January 8th, the business would be legally required to ensure that every adult in the premises were vaccinated.
Although this news was welcomed by many business struggling with customer limitations, the tourism sector met the developments with frustration. Their disapproval and ensuing legal challenge has prompted the Costa Rican courts to make a ruling on the matter in the coming week. Other outlets, like The Costa Rica News, have voiced their concern on a broader scale, citing 40% of the population that will be marginalized with the rule because they haven’t received both or any of the required doses.
The tourism industry in particular is predicting significant losses from the absence of unvaccinated visitors. One businessman suggested as much as $143 million could be lost per month as the regulations roll on.
Bary Roberts Strachan, who works in the tourist sector said “this measure by the Ministry of Health could mean a loss of income of $ 143 million per month during this high season if they cancel all unvaccinated tourists and , even recovering a third part with other tourists, the losses would be around $ 100 million per month in tourism alone, that is, $ 600 million in just 6 months, plus all the effects on other economic sectors linked to tourism, such as farmers, coffee growers , bars, restaurants, carriers, etc”.
The QR codes are provided by the Health Ministry, who say they have millions of codes for the already 4 million vaccinated members of the population. But others worry that the added investment in scanners and other tech related to the codes may hamper some of the smaller business, who may be facing as much as a 50% limitation.
Costa Rica currently has some of the highest vaccination rates in Central America, with almost 7 million doses administered. That, in theory, is enough to have vaccinated 68% of the population, but it should be noted that many of the first line responders have already received booster jabs. The infection rate in Costa Rica has been slowing for several weeks with current levels at approximately 6% of their peak rate.
More news to come as the decision is made.
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