QR code application to verify vaccination suspended

QCOSTARICA – The QR code application that the Government announced to verify completed vaccination against covid-19 in Costa Rica was suspended due to a very provisional precautionary measure requested by businessmen in the tourism sector, confirmed the National Chamber of Tourism (Canatur).

This means that its application is frozen while the matter is resolved by the merits in the Contentious Administrative Court.

One of the businessmen who raised the appeal in the court also confirmed the brake on the requirement announced by the Government in recent weeks and that vaccination would be mandatory from January 8 to enter shops, museums, hotels, restaurants and gyms, among others.

“In the first instance, we want to make it clear that we are entrepreneurs in the sector but we speak on behalf of other private sectors. We are not anti-vaccines, we believe in safety measures and we are very grateful to the Health authorities and the Minister of Tourism for what they have done. But the resolution was taken without consulting us and our industry is very different from how our sectors work,” said Bary Roberts Strachan, tourism entrepreneur and former vice president of the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT), Costa Rica’s tourism board.

The businessman indicated that the request was filed last Tuesday and the resolution was received at dawn this Saturday.

In the document, part of which the businessman yielded, the judge indicated that: “Consequently, this precautionary request is admitted, for which the IMMEDIATE SUSPENSION of the effects of the resolution of the Ministry of Health MS-DM-8119 IS ORDERED -2021 of October 14, 2021, only insofar as it orders the demonstration of a vaccination scheme through a QR code, which was established as mandatory verification for both the commercial establishments indicated in the indicated resolution, as well as for individuals or users thereof”.

“What happened is that, as they did not consult us and dictate, it began to affect us very strongly with very significant cancellations in response to this requirement. Between October 15 and November 5 when we made the first cut, there were more than US $3 million in cancellations in a few days and only a very few operators in the sector. According to the ICT, 47% of tourist visits received this year have been unvaccinated,” said Roberts Strachan on Saturday.

Fear of affectation

The businessman recalled that in Costa Rica the high season for tourism extends between November and April until the Semana Santa (Easter week) period of each year. A measure such as requiring the QR to enter hotels, restaurants linked to this sector and other activities supposes a “very serious impact on the sector,” he insisted.

Last week, Canatur itself issued a similar alert at a press conference stating that the application of the code to enter establishments could generate a loss of income of about US$600 million during this tourist season.

“This would have many repercussions, less income and damage to other sectors linked to our activity; I mean all the suppliers who would be hit and in the middle of a serious financial crisis which would put more pressure on the devaluation of the colon against the dollar. That is why the income of these tourists is also critical and also considering all the taxes that the State itself would stop collecting,” he argued.

The Poder Judicial (Judiciary) press office confirmed that the request by Roberts Strachan and other businessmen was submitted after hours earlier in the week but later the case was assigned the file number.

“What follows now from Monday is to transfer it to the Contentious Court area where the precautionary measures are known so that a hearing against the State can be held. This to determine whether or not the measure is maintained. That means it must be resolved in depth whether it is confirmed or not (…),” said Sandra Castro, the Judiciary press spokeswoman.

Castro added that the most provisional measure among others is the one that is presented as follows: it is requested but is not assigned a file number because it does not yet exist (it is not formally open) even when it is issued immediately. This is not appealed until the corresponding procedure is given in the section that sees the requests for precautionary measures where it will be determined whether the suspension is maintained or not,” added the spokeswoman.

Another point of the judge’s resolution says that “In the same way, since it has current effects, but also, given the potential but certain permanence of the effects of this mandatory measure (requirement of a QR code) it was made known through Presidential House communication number CP-1273-2021 dated October 22, 2021, in a precautionary manner, ORDERED to the President of the Republic, the Minister of Health, the Minister of Science, Innovation, Technology and Telecommunications (Micitt), to the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS) and the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE), who refrain from carrying out any conduct aimed at the implementation of the QR Code, at a commercial, social, labor, tourist, recreational and/or any other level, until it is resolved by the merits the present matter, in order to safeguard the precautionary judicial protection adopted in this resolution,” the document indicates.

The QR code measure, as announced by the government last month, until this temporary ruling, was set to be implemented voluntarily on December 1 and mandatory on January 8, 2022.

To be clear, the voluntary implementation by businesses allows them to operate at full capacity instead of the 50% capacity until the mandatory.

Also, for clarity, QR coding will not be required for supermarkets, pharmacies and other businesses deemed essential.

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