Due to the high number of passengers that will require COVID-19 diagnostic tests to travel to the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Spain, the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) promoted an agreement with the Costa Rican Chamber of Health, to provide efficient, safe, and cost effective access to these tests in private laboratories.
As of January 26, the United States, Costa Rica’s main tourist market, will require all travelers entering by air to present a negative SARS-CoV-2 result. The US admits RT-PCR and antigen testing as valid tests. The latter will be allowed by MINSA only to meet travel requirements to the U.S., but not as a diagnostic test in Costa Rica.
In the meantime, since January 18, the United Kingdom requires a negative RT-PCR result to enter that country, and since previous weeks Canada and Spain have requested the same test. The four countries are priority markets for Costa Rica.
To facilitate compliance with these requirements and as part of the agreement, the Costa Rican Chamber of Health – an organization representing the country’s private health sector – established a network of 130 clinical laboratories with the capacity to efficiently and safely perform COVID-19 tests, authorized by the Ministry of Health in all regions of the country.
In the case of RT-PCR tests, the agreement guarantees that results will be delivered within a maximum of 48 hours for samples taken both inside and outside the GAM. The Costa Rican Chamber of Health will monitor these times and if necessary will notify the ICT in a timely manner in order to inform the passengers so that they can take their forecasts. Antigen tests are less expensive than PCR and the result is in minutes.
Gustavo Segura, Minister of Tourism, said that “this is a new challenge in times of pandemic that we must solve while we seek the gradual recovery of our tourism sector. This agreement seeks to resolve the logistical challenge of facilitating access to COVID-19 diagnostic tests and ensuring that results are delivered on time, which is key both for foreign tourism returning home and for outbound tourism, in other words, for the Costa Rican population travelling mainly to the United States”.
“As a Chamber we celebrate this public-private alliance through which the country and all tourists who decide to visit us will benefit from having the security of having a quick and safe access to a COVID-19 test. The private health sector and its clinical laboratories have prepared during these months to supply themselves in a timely manner and offer testing services efficiently and in compliance with the highest standards of quality and patient safety,” said Massimo Manzi, executive director of the Chamber.
According to Minister Segura, in order to guide tourists and avoid speculation, a maximum cost of USD 100 is being recommended for RT-PCR tests carried out in GAM institutions and a maximum cost of USD 150 for tests carried out outside the GAM, due to costs related to the transfer of personnel and samples, among others. The reference cost for antigen testing is yet to be defined once it starts to be marketed in the country.
The ICT, in conjunction with the Chamber, will inform the private tourism sector so that it can serve as a link with the passengers, and there will be agile access to the tests and with a minimum interruption of their stay.
Additionally, the ICT and the Costa Rican Chamber of Health will work on possible training of airline personnel for the proper reading of each laboratory’s results and recognition of their validity.