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Costa Rica: Masks Now Only Required in Health Facilities

It's official: the new Costa Rican President Rodrigo Chaves posted a new decree lifting the mask mandate in the country, starting on May 11, 2022

Mask mandate lifted in Costa Rica

Masking to protect against Covid-19 will not be compulsory in Costa Rica, starting today. One of the first decrees signed by President Rodrigo Chaves and published this Wednesday May 11, 2022, in the official gazette lifts the mask mandate that was in place in the country during almost two years.

From now on, masks will only be mandatory in health facilities, as announced by the new government, which took office this past Sunday May 8 in a solemn act in the Legislative Assembly. No other exception was made — not even in public transportation or closed spaces, as is recommended by health authorities worldwide.

“All persons who are not frontline health care personnel or who do not require access to health facilities are exempt from this obligation,” the decree says. “The Ministry of Health must establish, for technical, objective reasons and with a human rights approach, the exceptional cases in which the use of masks is mandatory”.

The document also establishes that the Ministry of Health “may vary the scope of this executive decree, if the epidemiological situation in the country warrants it.” The latest Covid-19 report in Costa Rica shows the third-in-a-row weekly spike in SARS-CoV-2 infections, signaling what might be the start of a new pandemic wave in the country.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a statement on May 3, 2022, recommending everyone aged 2 and older “properly wear a well-fitting mask or respirator over the nose and mouth in indoor areas of public transportation (such as airplanes, trains, etc.) and transportation hubs (such as airports, stations, etc.).”

On the other hand, the World Health Organization (WHO) sustains that masks should still be used in “indoor settings where ventilation is known to be poor or cannot be assessed,” as well as in indoor and outdoor settings where “physical distancing of at least 1 meter cannot be maintained.”

The decree that originally made masks mandatory in Costa Rica was published on September 8, 2020. The new decree, published today by the new administration, effectively lifts the compulsory use of masks in all settings except in health care facilities. Before this, from April 2022, it was not mandatory to use them outdoors.

This Wednesday, Álvaro Ramos —the new Executive President of the CAJA (the Costa Rican Social Security Fund, or CCSS), who was named by President Chaves— urged citizens to continue “taking care” of themselves and not to give up on vaccination, which he acknowledged as the most important mechanism against the pandemic.

Vaccination against Covid-19 in Costa Rica

Vaccination against Covid-19 in Costa Rica

Compulsory vaccination in Costa Rica

The other pandemic-related decree announced by President Chaves this past weekend and now posted in the official gazette has to do with compulsory vaccination against Covid-19 in Costa Rica. The decree doesn’t lift the vaccine mandate in the country but asks public institutions to not sanction workers who don’t vaccinate against Covid-19.

Vaccines against Covid-19 are mandatory in Costa Rica, even for children, according to a decree signed by the last government. That decision was not repealed by Chaves in the new decree posted today, meaning that compulsory vaccination against SARS-CoV-2 is still going on in the country, which lately started administering the fourth doses.

This contrasts with what Chaves said on Sunday: “The rest of the people, including children in schools, will be able to choose whether they want to protect themselves with masks or not; the same with compulsory vaccination. There are people who do not want to be vaccinated. We removed the ability for them to be fired from their positions.”

Despite the President’s words, the only thing his new decree did was to urge “all public institutions” and the private sector “not to apply dismissal sanctions in the cases of officials who do not have the Covid-19 vaccination scheme.” He also asked the national vaccination commission to study the effects of compulsory vaccination.



Journalist with more than 10 years of experience in the media. In Costa Rica, Alessandro spent five years working in 'La Nación' newspaper. In Spain, he was a journalist for the digital newspaper 'Economía Digital' between 2017 and 2021. He also has experience in radio, advertising and production of live shows.

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