Severity: Critical Alert

Exit/Entry: Authorities in Costa Rica ease business and transportation restrictions related to coronavirus disease Sept. 9.

Alert Begins 10 Sep 2020 02:55 PM UTC
Alert Expires 30 Sep 2020 11:59 PM UTC

  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Travel and business disruptions

Authorities in Costa Rica will ease business and transportation restrictions beginning Sept. 9 as part of the nation's ongoing efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The temporary phase of eased restrictions will be in place until at least Sept. 30.

Under the new directives, nonessential businesses can now operate nationwide, though some businesses can only operate under strict capacity limits. Restaurants, gyms, and retail stores can operate at 50-percent capacity. Places of worship can now conduct services with a maximum of 125 people. Businesses that obtain health sanitary permits from the government may operate Monday through Friday 0500-2200 and 0500-2000 Saturday-Sunday. Lodging businesses can operate without capacity limits. Bars, nightclubs, and casinos must remain closed.

The Costa Rican government continues to use a four-stage, color-coded alert system based on local disease activity to track COVID-19 risk and manage restrictions in cantons and districts nationwide. The system consists of four levels: green (low risk), yellow (moderate risk), orange (high risk), and red (extreme risk). As of Sept. 9, all cantons in Costa Rica fall under either the yellow or orange classification. No cantons have received the green or red designations. Specific measures vary by location and intensity based on local disease activity. Given their lower incidence of disease activity, yellow zones have fewer movement and business restrictions than orange zones.

Residents of cantons classified as orange and yellow zones may use private vehicles 0500-2200 Monday-Friday and 0500-2000 Saturday-Sunday. Additionally, individuals driving in orange zones are prohibited from driving on certain days of the week, depending on the last digit of the vehicle's license plate number:


  • Monday: 1 and 2


  • Tuesday: 3 and 4


  • Wednesday: 5 and 6


  • Thursday: 7 and 8


  • Friday: 9 and 0


  • Saturday: 0, 2, 4, 6, 8


  • Sunday: 1, 3, 5, 7, 9


The following cantons are orange zones; however, changes to the classification of cantons are possible short notice:


  • Province of San Jose: Alajuelita, parts of Desamparados, Goicoechea, Mora, Tibas, San Jose, Santa Ana, Coronado, and Acosta


  • Province of Alajuela: Parts of Alajuela, and Naranjo, Rio Cuarto, Pital


  • Province of Heredia: Flores, parts of Heredia, San Pablo, Barva, and Santo Domingo


  • Province of Cartago: La Union and Oreamuno


  • Province of Puntarenas: Garabito, Montes de Oro, and parts of Osa


  • Province of Limon: Limon


The rest of the country is classified as yellow zones.

Foreign travelers from select countries are allowed to travel to Costa Rica and must have tested negative for COVID-19 within 48 hours prior to arrival. Travelers from the US states of Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, Virginia, and the District of Columbia are permitted to travel to Costa Rica. Flights will be limited. Starting Sept. 15, travelers from the US states of Colorado, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania will be permitted to enter the country. Travel from all other parts of the US will remain banned until further notice. Nonresident foreign nationals from EU countries, Canada, and the UK are permitted to enter Costa Rica via the country's air, maritime, or land borders. Costa Rican citizens and legal residents will be allowed to enter the country but must self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. Air, ground, and maritime freight transport and humanitarian operations are not affected by these restrictions.

Nationwide, all persons must wear protective face coverings that cover the nose and mouth while in indoor public areas and while using public transportation. Restaurants may continue delivery and pickup services. All businesses may operate with employees working from home.

Authorities could reimpose, extend, further ease, or otherwise amend any restrictions with little-to-no notice depending on disease activity over the coming weeks.

Background and Analysis
The restrictions enforced by the Costa Rican government are similar to actions taken by other governments globally in response to the spread of COVID-19, a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Strictly heed the instructions of authorities. Avoid all nonessential operations in the areas impacted by the measures. Confirm appointments. Remain courteous and cooperative if approached and questioned by law enforcement officers.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

Back to the COVID-19 Risk Intelligence & Resource Center