How will Costa Rica recover economically from Covid-19? That’s a great question with many variables and unknowns.
Two things are clear about COVID-19 in Costa Rica: Cases continue to increase, and it will be an uphill battle to recover the economy.
Currently there have been 12,361 confirmed cases of COVID since it arrived on March 6 (via two American tourists), and 71 people have sadly lost their lives to the virus. Costa Rica was the first Central American country to report Coronavirus COVID 19. Airports and land borders have been closed, businesses have been closed or limited, transportation has been curtailed, at least 500,000 people have lost their jobs and unemployment has reached a historic level at 15.7% from Feb-April 2020. (That’s not including May, June and July aswell as unregistered workers which could now bring the real number closer to 18-20%).
What happens now?
Firstly, Costa Rica is blessed with universal healthcare which has led to faster detection and better recovery rates than most other developing countries. Some 70,000 people have been tested for COVID-19, most at little or no cost. Compare that to what is heard from the United States about wait times, scarcity of tests, refrigerator trucks parked behind hospitals, and people forced to die alone, some with no insurance.
Everyone agrees that Costa Rica cannot rebound economically until COVID-19 is on the decline both within the country and worldwide especially in the United States. Schools will not reopen, workers will not go back to work, and families will continue to need help putting basic necessities like food on their tables.
The issue seems to be how to hang on until a viable vaccine or treatment is developed. How much longer will it take? Will anyone actually succeed? Will tiny Costa Rica be able to muscle itself onto the list of recipients of vaccines and treatments? As a small economy, Costa Rica is highly exposed to the global recession triggered by COVID, especially the drop in global tourism. The OECD predicts only a very gradual recovery. “The best-case scenario sees GDP growth of 2.7% in 2021, after already dropping 4.1% in 2020.”
There are two rays of hope in this situation.
Nicaragua survived disastrous civil strife some years ago which decimated their tourist industry, yet were able to recover most of their tourists until Ortega ruined the economy and set the tourist industry back on its butt. Costa Rica can make the same amazing recovery – the beauty of the country and its people has not changed. Costa Rica can certainly achieve the same or better recovery.
Secondly, University of Costa Rica has been doing tremendous work developing anti-COVID 19 equipment, from face coverings to respirators. They have been preparing for a long, vicious battle with the deadly virus. The UCR School of Medicine announced, “These advances are impacting medical areas of treatment and testing, respirators and ventilators, face coverings, information systems and data analysis of laboratories and pharmaceuticals, among other improvements.” Their division of virus and immunology (Instituto Clodomiro Picado) has even had preliminary positive results with vaccines and possible treatments.
It is going to be a long slog, but Costa Rica will regain its economic standing internationally as well as gain the admiration of less innovative and creative countries — all waging a war against the most dangerous foe we have known in our lifetimes.
Citizens, expats and tourists (when tourism returns) can do their part by practicing the famous three W’s: Wash your hands, Wear your mask, Watch your social distancing.
Good luck to Costa Rica and its valiant citizens
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