Severity: Critical Alert

Exit/Entry: Costa Rica to initiate new phase coronavirus response plan starting Aug. 1. Restricted international travel to resume.

  • Alert Begins: 31 Jul 2020 10:52 PM UTC
  • Alert Expires: 30 Aug 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 initiate a new phase of the nation's coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response plan on Aug. 1. The new phase, which will remain in effect through at least Aug. 30, provides for relaxing certain COVID-19-related restrictions, along with extending or tightening others, primarily based on local disease activity.

Starting Aug. 1, nonresident foreign nationals from European Union countries, Canada, and the UK may start entering Costa Rica via the country's air, maritime, or land borders. Travelers from the US remain banned from entering. Foreign travelers must have tested negative for COVID-19 within 48-hours before arriving. 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.

The Costa Rican government continues to use a four-stage color-coded alert system to track COVID-19 risk and manage restrictions in cantons and districts nationwide based on local disease activity. The system consists of Green (low risk), Yellow (moderate risk), Orange (high risk), and Red (extreme) alert levels. Currently, all cantons in Costa Rica have been classified as being either Yellow or Orange Alert zones; no cantons are designated as Green or Red Alert zones. Given their lower incidence of disease activity, Yellow Alert zones have fewer movement and business restrictions than Orange Alert zones.

Commercial businesses that have been issued health permits will be allowed to open nationwide in both Orange and Yellow Alert zones during two "open periods": Aug. 1-9 and Aug. 22-30. A "closure" period will be in effect Aug. 10-21, during which nonessential businesses in cantons under Orange Alert must close. Only grocery stores, repair shops, funeral homes, pharmacies, banks, healthcare facilities, and critical infrastructure, security, and media companies will be able to operate in Orange Alert cantons during the closure period; stores that are allowed to open may only operate at 50-percent capacity.

Until Aug. 30, residents of cantons under Orange Alert may use private vehicles between 0500-1700; however, they 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 will be on Orange Alert through Aug. 30:


  • Province of San Jose: San Jose, Escazu, Desamparados, Aserri, Mora, Goicoechea, Santa Ana, Alajuelita, Vazquez de Coronado, Tibas, Moravia, Montes de Oca, and Curridabat.


  • Province of Alajuela: Alajuela, Poas, Naranjo


  • Province of Heredia: Heredia, Barva, Santo Domingo, San Rafael, San Isidro, Flores, and San Pablo.


  • Province of Cartago: La Union


  • Province of Puntarenas: Corredores, and parts of Puntarenas, Golfito, and Coto Brus.


The rest of the country will continue on Yellow Alert level where nonessential businesses can operate under capacity limits. Restaurants, gyms, and retail stores can operate at 50-percent capacity, and churches at 75-percent capacity. Lodging businesses can operate without capacity limits. Bars, nightclubs, and casinos must remain closed. Motorists in Yellow Alert zones must follow the same guidelines for private vehicle use as those in Orange Alert cantons; however, they may be on the road for more hours per day - between 0500-2200 from Monday to Friday, and between 0500-1900 on weekends. In border areas, private vehicles cannot be on the streets between 1700-0500.

Nationwide, all persons must wear protective face coverings that cover the nose and mouth while in indoor public areas and on public transportation. Delivery and pickup services may continue. 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