Costa Rica’s Health Ministry will increase the search for positive COVID-19 cases in Cañas and will implement more than 600 tests throughout the canton in the upcoming days to identify people infected with the virus.
This authorities’ decision comes at a time when Cañas reports 25 active cases of COVID-19 and only 2 patients have recovered. The highest number of cases in the province.
According to the Health Surveillance of the Ministry, Rodrigo Marín, the guideline is to be clear about the “magnitude of the issue [of the cases]” in the area.
Health Ministry will implement the new tests by age groups and gender. It will also increase the number of screenings in the Bebedero district, where it will carry out more than 135 tests.
“We are talking about an important amount of screening in this area [“Bebedero”], as it is to test about 5% of the population of that district”, Marín said.
According to Health Ministry, the results of the tests will be ready in 15 days. Authorities do not necessarily expect a significant increase in cases by then.
It is possible that with the increase in the search for cases we will have the same results, the same as the data. What we want is to be sure that the strategies we are taking are the right ones,” the official said.
He also said that, to date, the new tests are in addition to another 600 already applied in the central district of Cañas since the beginning of infections in the area.
As a complementary measure the Costa Rican water institute (AyA in Spanish) will support the ministry in Cañas in taking samples for the detection of the virus in residual waters. “We are coordinating in Cañas to do the sampling and we are waiting for the results,” said Daniel Salas, Minister of Health.
On June 3rd, the Government issued an orange alert for both cantons due to the growing number of cases and the increased risk of transmission of the virus. The rest of the country is under yellow alert.
The districts of Las Juntas (Abangares), Peñas Blancas (San Ramón), Venecia (San Carlos), La Fortuna (San Carlos), the entire canton of Pococí, Upala and Los Chiles are also under orange alert.
The objective is to contain the transmission, to flatten the COVID-19 infection curve and to contain its side effects,” according to a government press release.
The Executive President of the National Emergency Commission (CNE in Spanish), Alexander Solis Delgado, said at a press conference that this difference means that the districts have special measures that are different in terms of circulation and trade. Among those measures is the vehicle restriction that has been adjusted from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. of the next day, for example.
The Mayor of Cañas, Luis Fernando Mendoza, said through the local government’s Facebook page that “if these positive and suspicious cases continue and if they increase we could be exposed to a red alert and there we would have total closure of all communities in the canton of Cañas”.
He was explicit in pointing out that all businesses that fail to comply with sanitary and municipal measures are exposed to the closure of the establishment for a period of 30 calendar days and, if they fail to comply a second time, a 3-month suspension of their sanitary permit to operate.
In addition, he said those who consume alcoholic beverages on the street or in public places are subject to a fine of up to ¢225,000.
“We have had news of people who are under sanitary orders and are not complying with them. We will be much stricter in order to not expose the rest of the citizens to the infection due to the irresponsibility of some people,” Mendoza emphasized.
Despite the rise in the number of cases in the province and in Cañas, the authorities have insisted that most of them have an identified background. This is a positive factor, as it reflects “a good job of early detection“, according to Minister Salas.
For example, on May 27, the province registered 10 new cases, eight of which shared the same epidemiological link (same origin) and two were under investigation.
“We have been working on an early timely detection, with the necessary quarantine. It is very different to say that none of these had a sanitary order or that they had a long period of being with symptoms and that they had not been detected. These are indicators that one considers knowing where we are going in the next few days,” Salas said this that day at the press conference.
In fact, the origin of most cases in Guanacaste, and in Cañas, corresponds to a cluster that was created by the contact of a transporter who entered the country before the sanitary measures were adopted at the border.
Health Director for the Chorotega region, Enrique Jimenez, says the cluster began with infections in Liberia and later spread to Bagaces and Cañas.
“That [foreign] transporter was there for 48 hours and then returned. He delivered a cargo and made an infection cluster. Basically, we can say that this was the origin of most of the cases that we have now,” Jimenez said.
He added that such behavior is known epidemiologically as a chain of transmission.
The authorities exclude, for the time being, that there is no community transmission in any of the cantons of the country.