El Salvador, Costa Rica and Panama will relax health restriction in the third year of the pandemic to increase tourism and improve the economy.
HAVANA TIMES – El Salvador, Costa Rica and Panama are the three Central American countries that will no longer require negative Covid-19 tests or medical insurance as a requirement for entry into their territories. However, in Panama the measure will only apply to people who have already been vaccinated against the coronavirus.
According to a presidential decree, since February 16, 2022, only unvaccinated tourists and those with less than two doses will have to present a negative Covid 19 test, PCR or antigen type, as a requirement for entry into Panama.
“The traveler must digitally register proof of vaccination prior to travel or physically present the vaccination card at the port of entry to the country,” explains the decree signed by President Laurentino Cortizo and the country’s Minister of Health.
In the case of those who do not have at least two doses or their complete scheme, which in Panama are considered three doses to complete the guideline, they must present a negative test valid for 72 hours. Alternatively, they can have the test at the port of entry.
Costa Rica to relax its measures until April
In Costa Rica, the change in the measures for tourists will take place in April. According to the announcement made on Wednesday by President Carlos Alvarado, this country will begin to relax the restrictions against Covid-19 in March, by eliminating the vehicle restriction decreed since last year.
Also, in March, the health pass for the entry of nationals will be eliminated. Meanwhile, tourists will still be subjects to a health check, but it will be random.
In April, the change of measures will allow public events and mass activities to be held without the need to request the QR code of the vaccination certificate. Also, tourists will be allowed to enter without the need for a health pass and without paying for medical insurance, which until now was mandatory.
High vaccination rates allow opening doors
El Salvador stopped requesting negative Covid-19 tests and vaccination cards since November 17, 2021, according to information from the General Directorate of Migration and Immigration. This country also opened the doors to vaccination tourism with which foreigners could travel to get immunized for free.
“We are a country of open doors to all foreigners, in addition to being able to enter our territory without restrictions, they are reminded that they can access the national vaccination system on a voluntary basis, a convenience that few countries can provide to their visitors,” according to Nayib Bukele’s Government.
These three Central American countries have the highest vaccination rates in the region. Costa Rica leads with 73.71% of its population fully vaccinated; followed by Panama with 66,72%; and El Salvador with 64.7% of its population inoculated.
They also show significant progress in the application of the third doses and are reporting a decrease in infections triggered by the Omicron variant.
However, the flexibility in entry is due to an interest in economic growth through tourism, explained authorities from the three nations. Nicaragua, which has shown significant progress in vaccination against Covid-19, still requires a negative PCR test to enter the country.
European Union opens doors to vaccinated
This week the European Union made an update to the restrictions on non-essential travel to the European Union (EU), in which it allows as of March 1, the entry of people vaccinated with World Health Organization (WHO) approved biological agents and those who have recovered.
“Member states should lift the temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU for persons who have been administered an EU or WHO approved vaccine, provided they have received the last dose of vaccination at least 14 days and no more than 270 days prior to arrival or have received a booster dose,” they explain.
They point out that, despite these changes, the authorities will still be able to request negative Covid-19 tests or establish other restrictions such as quarantine or isolation considering the health situation of the traveler’s country of origin.
In the case of travelers whose certificate is not the one created by the European Union or who are immunized with unproven vaccines, they must present their negative Covid-19 test. Meanwhile, minors between six and 18 years of age who have not completed the vaccination schedule may travel with a negative PCR test performed no more than 72 hours prior to traveling. Children under six years of age are not subject to any additional testing or requirements.