Region, COVID-19

Salud Recognizes that COVID-19 Testing Must be Performed Outside the Capital of Costa Rica

Esta publicación también está disponible en: Español

The tests to detect COVID-19 are only carried out by laboratories in the center of the country (Greater Metropolitan Area – GAM). The Health Minister, Daniel Salas, recognizes that this must change in the short term and that it is a priority for the institution to achieve this.

“We are fully aware that we have to have the ability to perform diagnostics closer to where the phenomenon is eventually occurring,” admitted Salas. However, he did not specify when this will happen.

In Guanacaste, the process to carry out tests for COVID-19 begins with the laboratory of the Enrique Baltodano Hospital in Liberia doing a first analysis of the sample to detect viruses other than the new coronavirus. If the tests for other viruses come back negative, then samples are sent to laboratories in San José as COVID-19 suspects.

As a consequence, the population in Guanacaste must wait longer for the results, on average, about 72 hours.

More tests

On Monday, March 23rd, tests confirming out COVID-19 in Costa Rica went from 2,000 to 6,000. 

There was a remainder of 2,000 tests. Yesterday we received a package with many more, an amount that exceeds 4,000,” said the minister.

As of March 24, 177 are confirmed with the virus, 1,619 cases were negative and Costa Rica has held steady with 2 deaths.

Through the Republic’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Costa Rica is also coordinating donations of more test kits from governments of other countries for the purpose of being able to expand the number of people being tested.Since the report of the first case, on March 6, all tests are carried out in Costa Rican territory with tests  donated by the Pan American Health Organization (2,796 according to data released in official statements).

The National Virology Reference Center of the Costa Rican Institute of Research in Health and Nutrition (Inciensa inSpanish) was the only institution in charge of the tests but then exams were approved to be performed in the Hospital Mexico, Hospital San Juan de Dios and National Hospitals of Children.

Now two private medical centers are added with the goal of expanding the mapping of the progress of infections. This is the Biblical Clinic and LABIN Laboratories; both must notify the results to the Ministry of Health, and in case of non-compliance, the centers will lose their operating permits.

“Private centers bought their own tests, neither the CCSS nor the Ministry of Health have given them supplies or equipment. What was done was to pass the test -which they will use-, after being sure that the sensitivity and specificity is correct to guarantee its quality “, said the director of Health Surveillance, Rodrigo Marín.

The tests in private centers must be paid by each person who requests them. For example, Clínica Bíblica hospital will offer the diagnostic test at a price of ¢60,000 (some $105) each.

As published, to confirm a COVID-19 diagnosis two tests are needed, so that the total cost would exceed (some $210,000, plus the Value Added Tax).

The need for more tests is an urgent appeal from the World Health Organization (WHO).

We have a simple message for all countries: test, test, test,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on March 16.

“All countries should be able to examine all suspected cases. They cannot fight this pandemic blindfolded,” added the Director, who lectures daily from Geneva, Switzerland.