Region, COVID-19

Here’s all you need to know about border closures, Liberia airport and Peñas Blancas border

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In the next 25 days (from March 18), no tourist will be able to enter Costa Rica. As of now, the general manager of the Daniel Oduber Airport, Cesar Jaramillo, projected, “We are going to see a 95% decrease in international arrivals.”

The reason? The majority of flights that arrive at the airport in Liberia do so with international passengers. Only the remaining 5% who enter the country through that port of entry are Costa Ricans or residents.

“But the airport is still open,” Jaramillo said emphatically. In other words, any foreigner or national who wants to leave the country can do so, and any Costa Rican who wants to enter can too.

On Monday morning, the Costa Rican government signed a State of Emergency decree that restricts entry of foreigners into the country with the objective of preventing a massive spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Below we explain what a border closure means for Costa Rica and how it will affect the operation of the two ports of entry located in the province of Guanacaste: the Daniel Oduber Airport and Peñas Blancas.

1. How long will the border closure measure last?

The government decree establishes that the border closure will be from this Wednesday, March 18, starting at 11:59 p.m. until 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, April 12, 2020. That is a total of 26 days.

2. What borders are included in the measure?

All of the country’s borders: air, land and sea. In Guanacaste, we have two borders that must comply with the order: the Peñas Blancas land border crossing and the airport in Liberia (Daniel Oduber International Airport).

3. What does the decree establish?

The decree prohibits the entry of foreigners into the country and will only allow the entry of Costa Ricans and residents during this time period. In addition, it establishes some exceptions for the following groups of people: air transport crews, commerce, supplies and diplomats (government entity personnel from other countries in the world).

4. If I am Costa Rican and I want to return to the country, can I?

Yes, but Costa Ricans and residents entering the country will have to undergo mandatory preventive isolation for 14 days, preferably at their place of residence. Upon arrival, immigration officers will give the Costa Rican or resident a health order that obligates them to comply with the measure.

Costa Ricans are going to have the opportunity to return to our country in an orderly manner,” said Tourism Minister Maria Amalia Revelo.

5. Should I use some type of special transportation from the airport to my place of residence?

No. However, Ministry of Health authorities recommend using some type of private transportation to avoid crowds. If it can be a private vehicle, that would be better.

6. Why are there 14 days of quarantine?

Deputy Minister of Health Denis Angulo explained to this newspaper that it is the prudent timeframe to find out if a person will show any symptoms of the Coronavirus. “Some symptom could appear on day two or on day 14. If that happens, the person must report to the Ministry of Health to start doing studies,” he said. After that time, and if no symptoms are reported, the person no longer needs to be under quarantine.

7. If I am a Tico, do I have any exit restrictions?

No. The borders are still open to anyone who wants to leave the country. That being said, Minister of Health Daniel Salas asked nationals to cancel their trips. “I repeat: there is no exit restriction, but I make a vehement request that we do not leave the country. To the extent possible, let’s stay home,” the chief indicated.

8. If I am a foreigner and I want to leave Costa Rica, do I have any limitations?

No. Any person, no matter if he is a foreigner, will be able to leave the country whenever needed through any of the Costa Rican borders.

9. Do all the countries in the world already know about this Costa Rican directive?

Yes. The government made the announcement through the Office of the Chancellor.

10. What about flights that have layovers in Costa Rica?

Flights with passengers entering the country in “transit” mode can do so according to the government directive. In other words, Costa Rica will continue to function as a layover point or connection with other parts of the world, for the time being.

11. If I am a resident and I travel with relatives who are not residents, can they enter with me?

No.  They can only do so if they themselves are Costa Ricans or residents. “The directive is clear. Foreigners do not enter regardless of the relationship,” commented Deputy Minister of Health Denis Angulo.

12. What about Holy Week (Easter)?

In effect, the restriction dates established by the directive include Holy Week (up to and including Easter Sunday). The religious celebration does not annul the measures announced by the government.

13. What about the migratory flow with Nicaragua?

The Peñas Blancas border post must also comply with the guideline of prohibiting entry to foreigners. Between our country and Nicaragua or Panama, the government assured that only the flow of merchandise and of Costa Rican citizens and residents will be allowed.

14. How is the Daniel Oduber Airport preparing to comply with the government measures?

The airport’s general manager, Cesar Jaramillo, assured that the airport is still open and that while the directive is in effect, it will be normal for planes to arrive with few passengers and depart with many passengers.

We are going to have planes arriving to take care of the departure of passengers and then days will come when traffic is very low,” he commented.

Looking to the future, the manager assured that “it is a matter of seeing how the virus behaves. We do not have a good or bad projection for the airport,” he said. “Once the pandemic problem has been solved at the national level, the flow will very likely recover. If it will be slow or fast, nobody knows,” he concluded.

The manager added that the drop in air traffic will not translate into layoffs for staff working at the airport.