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Costa Rica to start reopening economy May 1 as infection rate slows

SAN JOSE (Reuters) - Costa Rica’s government said on Monday it will start reopening its economy and lifting some coronavirus-related social distancing measures from May 1, as the number of active infections has declined for 11 consecutive days.

While parts of Latin America enter the toughest phase of the coronavirus pandemic, Costa Rica has been seeing a steady fall in the number of people currently infected.

Movie theaters, gyms and hair salons will be able to open again for business on Friday, but under reduced hours and strict rules on the number of clients allowed at any one time, said President Carlos Alvarado.

“We have had relative and fragile success, but we cannot let our guard down,” said Alvarado.

Health experts say the country has likely benefited from the population’s observance of measures to fight the virus. The government has closed the country to foreigners through May 15, stepping up border surveillance, suspending mass events, and limiting road traffic.

Costa Rica has 697 accumulated cases of coronavirus and the death toll has remained at six for a week.

From Sunday to Monday, Costa Rica registered two just new infections and 23 people recovered.

The small Central American nation has entered “a new stage,” according to Health Minister Daniel Salas.

Costa Rica will continue to keep its borders, beaches, bars, national parks, churches and educational centers closed, and has banned mass events.

Salas called on Costa Ricans to be disciplined in order to avoid “a second wave of the pandemic” and to be able to implement additional measures aimed at boosting economic activity.

Costa Rica’s economy is seen contracting 3.6% this year due to falling exports and consumer spending as the pandemic causes widespread economic pain.

Reporting by Alvaro Murillo; Writing by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall

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