Our Community's Response to Coronavirus Covid-19 in Costa Ballena

May 12, 2023 in Discover Costa Rica, Life in Costa Rica

Although we have no reports of official cases of Covid-19 in Costa Ballena, the effects of prevention are taking their toll on our local communities. A vast number of businesses and all of the beaches have been closed in our region and many are going without employment or access to their usual services. But people in Costa Ballena are coming up with creative ways to help out in our communities.

Managing the Effects of Covid-19 in Costa Ballena

So many of our Costa Ballena businesses are reliant on tourism. And right now, in the height of local tourism's high season, there are almost no tourists left. All tourists left behind in Costa Rica will be required to stay for an indeterminate amount of time while borders are closed. But all of us cannot cover the needs of the owners of hotels, restaurants, tour activity centers, non-essential stores, and all of their staff. The Costa Ballena Disaster Relief is an organization that was created during the disaster fallout of Tropical Storm Nate in 2017. Currently, they are collecting food, money, and more, which they are distributing these items directly to families who have applied to receive aid. In collaboration with the Costa Ballena Disaster Relief Team and SOMOS Foundation, the Family Support Center of Ojochal is working to ensure families across Costa Ballena are protected from the impact of this global health event. For more than 5 years, the Family Support Center of Ojochal has provided food support to families in Ojochal. They have since expanded that support to address this crisis by collecting financial donations. These are to be distributed as food vouchers to local families without work on a bi-weekly basis for the duration of this crisis (pending sufficient donations - you can donate here). HELPCA is another volunteer organization that offers efficient and free delivery of fresh and completely organic food and supplies from the local farmers who sell in the Uvita Feria. HELPCA was originally created to assist a private school group but has generously been expanded to assist all people in our beach areas. This greatly minimizes grocery store visits and allows us all to stay as healthy and healthy eating as possible while staying socially distant.

Businesses Staying Relevant in Times of Crisis

Virtual tours are being offered by a number of businesses who want to carry forth their connection with their client base, even in these distant times. Realtors are showing lots and homes by live video feed, personal trainers are giving out free lessons by way of live video posts, tourism companies are giving tours by video, and rental homes are giving tours of their properties and facilities. One personal trainer in the area has started a free fitness challenge intended to inspire and motivate people to benefit their lives while in self-isolation. Local stores that sell essentials and food items are doing their best to keep the spread of coronavirus at bay. Hand washing stations have been set up at the entrance of each of Ojochal’s three supermarkets. And Uvita’s BM chain has greeters offering sanitizer for your hands and your cart. Local restaurants all over the Costa Ballena that have chosen to stay open are offering free delivery to those who cannot or should not pick up their to-go orders. And then there are the outstanding gems like Los Gatos Locos and Bamboo Room in Ojochal whose owners continue to pay their employees while they close shop for precautionary measures.

Community Members Standing Up To Help

Many people have heard the call of those in need and have stood up to volunteer their time, efforts, and often personal funds to help their fellow community members in need. Some, like Lia in Ojochal, have taken it upon themselves to support the farmers in the region who would normally sell their produce at the weekly farmer’s markets in our Costa Ballena region. Since our ferias have been cancelled, a few good samaritans are picking up from farmers and delivering around our communities while maintaining safety standards and sanitation protocols.  Others, like Marla in Uvita, are taking grocery and pharmacy orders from those who feel unsafe to go into public spaces. She and others like her are making sure that those in the highest-risk categories can still have access to essentials. People who already volunteer their great services are heeding the call to help further in this crisis. Sandy is one community member who already donates the proceeds of her weekly Zumba class to both DAWG and El Refugio animal shelters. She is now doing an online Zumba class to keep the donations coming, even during isolation. Those who can are continuing to pay their housekeepers and gardeners if they cannot continue to work. Others are continuing their services while staying separated at a safe distance. Our community is also being mindful of not hoarding the necessities. As a result, the widespread shortages seen elsewhere are not occurring here. People have begun fostering more pets to combat the loneliness and boredom of these times. With social distancing protocols, it is quite difficult for volunteers to continue in their usual manner when caring for these animals. People are temporarily fostering more animals so that the need for in-house staffing at the shelters is reduced. We feel so blessed to be a part of this bright community of caring people from all around the world. Locals and expats are working together to stay safe and to care for the most vulnerable in our communities however we are able to. And the above bright lights show that we are able to do a lot together in times of crisis. We love living in the Costa Ballena!

Costa Rica's Current Government Response

Costa Rica has instituted new immigration rules as a response to the threat of coronavirus COVID-19.  As of Tuesday, March 23, 2020, President Carlos Alvarado decreed that:

  1. All beaches are closed to everyone
  2. All churches are closed (any religion)
  3. Non-emergency vehicles are restricted from using any roads between 10:00 pm to 5:00 am
  4. Foreigners with residence leaving of the country will lose their immigration status

The loss of residency status appears to be only temporary, lasting the duration of Costa Rica’s emergency measures. That is, once the emergency is over, status is restored. This specific measure intended to keep residents within Costa Rica’s borders, not leaving and coming back, bringing in further contamination. As a result of these and other measures, the United Nations has officially congratulated Costa Rica for its “exceptional and innovative” response to the Covid-19 Pandemic. The country has set the bar for all global institutions combating the spread of this coronavirus. Various institutions are working together to develop an inter-institutional response. Health department authorities offer daily press conferences to inform Costa Ricans about new cases and the measures that need to be taken to prevent a growth in cases. Authorities continue to insist that citizens do not leave their homes unless for urgent needs. Among the provisions that have been taken as a result of the pandemic, there is the suspension of classes until April 13th, the cancellation of large public gatherings, the suspension of sports activities and the closure of discos, bars, and casinos. Also, as of this Thursday, all borders are closed for the arrival of foreigners, while nationals and residents entering the country will be placed in mandatory quarantine. For its part, the bank system will prioritize the adjustment of debts for those affected by the virus, and the National Rehabilitation Center (Cenare) was designated as the exclusive hospital to attend patients with Covid-19. Costa Rica’s official message to the population about the novel Coronavirus is specifically focused on more vulnerable groups such as indigenous peoples, children and adolescents, senior adults and people with disabilities to ensure that no one is left behind.

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