CR Covid Response Praised

Coronavirus in Costa Rica: what is the effective formula in the Latin American country where fewer covid-19 patients die? asks BBC Mundo, given that our country has recorded only 6 deaths from 739 confirmed cases in the 59 days since the first was reported.

Disinfecting the mercado central in downtown San Jose

That is a death rate of 0.86%.

“Our best vaccine against covid-19 is to have a disciplined and educated population, and a fairly consolidated health system,” Dr. Luis Villalobos, told BBC Mundo.

“We do not spend on the army, but we do spend a lot on health, social security and education, and that has been very important,” adds the also former dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Costa Rica (UCR).

Spain’s El Pais said on Friday, “Costa Rica clings to caution despite registering 10 days without deaths from covid-19”. The last death reported was on April 20.

Mortality in Costa Rica is the lowest on the continent, but the authorities refrain from relaxing sanitary measures, calling it a momentary triumph.

However, internal critics question the figure, arguing that not enough testing has been done. As of Sunday, May 3, 13,851 tests have been made, a rate of 277 per 100,000 inhabitants, although Health Minister, Dr. Daniel Salas, does not tire of assuring in his daily press conferences that tests are being applied to all those who suspect they have been infected

In any case, there are other figures that Health authorities present as evidence that until now everything is under control. There are only 16 patients in hospitals, and of these, six occupy intensive care beds.

The hospital that the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS) exclusively set up for covid-19 is at 95% vacancy. And then there are the number of recoveries, on Sunday more than half of the confirmed cases are in the recovered column.

The some 3.000 black bags the CCSS purchased in March are almost intact.

Other newspapers in Europe and Latin America had similar praises in their publications this weekend.

In Costa Rica, The Minister of Health, Dr. Daniel Salas and the President of CCSS, Roman Macaya, insist that despite the good numbers and the decline in the virus curve, on the need to maintain strict measures.

“Costa Rica has a robust and universal health system explains,” Macaya.

The Costa Rica public system has 29 hospitals, as well as clinics and a small health area for practically each neighborhood called Basic Equipment for Comprehensive Care (EBAIS), which are the first step in health care. This network enables personalized daily monitoring of COVID-19 patients and has also prevented the country from having community transmission of the virus, since all cases have their identified epidemiological link.

This universality ensures that people have free access to COVID-19 evidence, as long as they meet the established parameters to consider someone as a suspicious case.

“Early detection is one of the key factors Costa Rica has been able to keep the death rate low,” explains Salas.

“The Sentinel model favored the early detection of the disease. It allows us to know what is happening in the most strategic, hottest points of the country,” he said April 23. “The moment we have an increase in cases that are in those sentinel units across the country, it immediately alerts us that there is increased circulation of a virus”.

Unlike some other countries in the region and the world, Costa Rica has not established a generalized quarantine, but it has ordered restrictions on the movement of vehicles, the closing of bars, discos, cinemas, gyms, and the operation with diminished capacity of restaurants, shops and other small businesses.

As of May 1 and due to the decrease in the curve of active cases, it has begun to reopen some activities such as gyms, beauty salons, mechanical workshops and cinemas with limitations.

Meanwhile, Minister Salas – a 43-year-old doctor and expert in epidemiology – has become a figure with a direct voice that has permeated the population and that sometimes resembles a scolding.

“I  need that you react, please react!” Was one of the phrases of the minister that became most popular when Costa Rica was just beginning to face the pandemic and the authorities advocated staying home.

Meanwhile, the Clodomiro Picado Institute of the University of Costa Rica that specializes in the development of snake antivenoms that it exports to various countries in the world, is applying that technique to create a serum to treat seriously ill patients of COVID-19. The serum will be developed with plasma donated by recovered patients, since the body of these people generates an immunity (resistance) to the virus.

For its part, the state-run Instituto Costarricense de Investigación y Enseñanza en Nutrición y Salud (Inciensa) – Costa Rican Institute for Research and Teaching in Nutrition and Health –  managed for the first time in the country’s history to sequence the genome of the SARS COV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19.

This advance will allow us to know if the virus has mutations over time, generate information that can be useful for developing vaccines, to know the dynamics and diversity of the viral population, the transmission routes in the country, among other uses.

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