Of the total number of passengers detained 70 are U.S. citizens - Ministry of Security photo -

Published on Monday, August 30, 2021
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Airport Police officers have detained 400 passengers this year, from February to Aug. 27, on suspicion of presenting false PCR tests of a negative result of covid-19 in the international airports of the country.

According to the police report, 362 people were arrested for detection of false evidence in the Juan Santamaría International Airport, in Alajuela province, when trying to leave the country.

The remaining 38 arrests were made at the Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport, in Guanacaste Province.

Of the total number of passengers detained for alleged use of a false or altered document, the three main nationalities were 70 U.S. citizens, 33 French, and 28 Guatemalan. The rest are of other nationalities, the police said.

Following the guidelines for the detention of persons suspected of using false or altered documents, the detainees were taken before the Prosecutor's Office where a judge determined the pre-trial measures in each case.

Officials are trained to follow strict rules to detect fakes. There is a thorough plan in place that requires coordination between the Ministry of Health and the laboratories mentioned in the negative covid-19 diagnostic test, requiring police officers to verify with the laboratory (mentioned in the document) if the traveler made the test in person.

If the officer can’t verify by phone that the document is real, the traveler is immediately arrested. And taken to the Public Ministry for a quick trial, known as Flagrante Delicto, for the crime of using a false document.

The Flagrante Delicto or sometimes simply in-flagrante is a legal term used to indicate that a criminal has been caught in the act of committing an offense. The colloquial "caught red-handed" or "caught rapid" are English equivalents.

According to Alejandro Araya Vargas, a specialist from the Public Ministry, people who have been found guilty of giving false laboratory diagnostic tests for covid-19 could receive penalties of one to six years in prison.

But, in most cases, the judge has ordered alternative solutions. These options established by law allow the person to repair the damage caused as a result of the violation, for example with a donation of supplies to an organization.

The covid-19 test with a negative result is an indispensable requirement to enter other countries. But in many cases, people went to unauthorized places to get tested without knowing those testing sites were not recognized by the government as an official testing site. Leaving those unaware with a document that did not meet the requirements ordered by the Ministry of Health.

It is for this reason that the officers warn national and international travelers to only get tested at government sanctioned sites in order to receive the correct requested medical examination.

In January, the Ministry of Health authorized private laboratories to carry out covid-19 diagnostic tests for people leaving Costa Rica and needing it as a requirement to enter another country.

Private laboratories carrying out the diagnostic test are LABIN Lab., Clínica Bíblica Hospital, Páez Lab., San José Lab and Metropolitano Hospital, among others that are part of the Chamber of Health, as well in the two international airports, in Alajuela and Guanacaste.

The covid detection tests could cost $100 in the Greater Metropolitan Area, GAM, which is the zone made up of cities in the outskirts of San José such as Alajuela, Heredia and Cartago. In rural zones, the most expensive pricing for the test is $150, according to data provided by the Ministry of Tourism.

According to the company Aeris, in charge of managing the Juan Santamaria International Airport, during the first month of operation of the fast covid detection test laboratory, in May, more than 9,600 PCR and antigen tests were performed on passengers leaving the country. Only 0.2% of the total tests resulted positive for the disease.

The statistics collected during the first month of operation, an average of 301 daily tests were carried out, corresponding to 11% of the total outgoing passengers, they added.

So far, Costa Rican authorities are not requesting tourists for a covid-19 diagnostic test when entering the country. But this decision could change depending on the development of the virus in the country, the ministry said in its statement.

What have you heard of expats experiencing challenges to leave or enter the country due to a positive covid test result? We would like to know your thoughts on this story. Send your comments to news@amcostarica.com

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