Costa Rica coronavirus response: how we flattened the curve


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A month after the first case on the Coronavirus outbreak, Costa Rica only has around 550 active cases. We've beaten the response of almost every country in the world. How did we do it?

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Music by the amazing Tom Fox.

I had been working on a new video, call it 'An ode to New York'. and then 2020 happened.

The story of that video was around how living in New York had changed my life because it did in a lot of ways. I don't live in New York anymore I moved to Costa Rica I've been living here for the past few years; but my company, the startup I run still has an... office in the city, I was in that office just one week before the first case appeared in the city. And seeing how the situation evolved in this first two weeks, seeing how both of these governments responded, I wouldn't choose anywhere else in the world to be than Costa Rica. Let me show you some numbers.

The first confirmed case in New York City was on March 1st. March first the first confirmed case in Costa Rica was March 6th, a woman who flew in from New York City and was not diagnosed because she had no symptoms. Two days later after the first case was confirmed, the government was already issuing orders for companies to begin working from home. The border and all schools were closed before we had a hundred cases in the country, and non-essential businesses soon after. In New York schools were only closed after the thousandth case was breached; non-essential businesses were closed after they had 10,000 cases in the city. Now, it's obviously necessary to note how New York City is extremely more dense than Costa Rica, and this might not be a fair comparison on the speed of the spread; however what I'm trying to point out here is how quickly where measures implemented by the governments.

On hospital beds, New York has, approximately 23,000 beds, which is 2.7 beds per thousand people. That more than doubles Costa Rica's 1.1 beds per thousand people, and perhaps that's why the Costa Rican government had to be extra careful. With limited hospital beds, and only 140 ICU units in the country, any steep curve would put us in a lot of trouble. In New York City, as of April 10th, there were 21,000 hospitalized on COVID-19,plus the people already in the hospital.

The system was overwhelmed and then they had to improvise. This chart over here is probably the most important one of all, few countries, even success stories like South Korea, have been as successful as Costa Rica in slowing the curve.

So the key here was obviously, how quickly the governor responded, and how seriously they took the situation from the get-go. But if it has not been easy, we've been in lockdown for around five weeks now, we are still allowed to come outside, we actually were encouraged to exercise as long as we're alone, but one of the reasons for that, is because we didn't have the legislation to do curfews, it's not in our Constitution. The government had to find workarounds to stop people from leaving their houses, at least in groups. One of those was restricting car movement, forcing most... ...businesses to close; even at the supermarket only one person per family can go in, and there's a restriction on how many products you can purchase. It's helped us not run out of toilet paper. Resident aliens were told that if they left the country, their visas would be revoked, schools have been closed for a month. So the measures have been very harsh, but they're working.

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