Central America Covid Measures

A Guide to the Central America Covid Measures, Restrictions, and Curfews

We take a look at the Central America Covid measures, curfews, and restrictions on the ground in each country as things stand right now.

Hard to believe we haven’t spoken much about this over the past two years – at least not in a general format. We’ve spoken about individual countries, and we’ve talked about pandemic entry requirements, but we’ve never issued a guide to how restrictions are playing out on the ground.

Are there curfews in place? Does segregation exist between the vaccinated and unvaccinated? Which Central American country is most “free”? Here, we take a look at each country and outline the restrictions (or not) in place right now.

Again, we’re not talking about entry requirements and whether you need to test to enter or not. You can find that info here. This is about what you’ll see/experience while in any given Central American country.

Belize

For a recap on the entry requirements for Belize, see here.

The first thing to know, if you’re visiting Belize, is that you need to stay in Gold Standard accommodations (a hotel or rental accommodation that complies to the Belize government’s Covid protocol standards). This needs to be booked in advance of arrival. You can’t just rock up any more and go find a place to stay when arriving in Belize.

The government also advises tourists to use Gold Standard tour operators, guides, and transfer companies. This is advisory rather than mandatory, though. So, in effect, tourists can use regular public transport, taxis, and water taxis if they wish.

These Gold Standard rules and recommendations only apply to non-Belizean tourists. They don’t apply to citizens, legal residents, people who clearly live in Belize (whether they have residency or not), or to people visiting family or friends in Belize.

Belize still operates under a curfew. 

From Sundays to Thursdays, curfew kicks in at 11:00 PM and lifts at 4:00 AM. On Fridays and Saturdays, it begins at midnight and lifts at 4:00 AM. This curfew remains in place until at least January 15, 2022. Minors (under 18-year-olds) out without their parents have a curfew starting at 8:00 PM.Social distancing and capacity limits are also in place. You can eat in a restaurant/bar only if you’ve made a prior reservation.

Indoor restaurants operate at 50% seating capacity while outdoor restaurants operate at 75% seating capacity. Group events comprising over ten people from different households are prohibited. Casinos are open at 50% capacity, but only for fully-vaccinated (two jabs so far) customers. Government offices (including libraries and schools) are only open to the vaccinated and partially-vaccinated.

Unvaccinated people wanting to enter a government building must show proof of a negative Covid test (PCR or rapid antigen) taken within 72 hours prior to entering.Mask wearing is mandatory at all times in Belize when out in public. Belize has mandated Covid vaccinations for all public sector workers, and allowed private businesses to decide whether or not to mandate vaccinations for their employees.

Costa Rica

For a recap on the entry requirements for Costa Rica, see here.

Unlike other countries in Central America, Costa Rica operates on a system of vehicular restrictions rather than curfew. Costa Rica is the only country in Central America – outside of Nicaragua – that has never been under curfew, per se.

But whether you call them vehicular restrictions or curfew, the result is more or less the same. Right now, vehicles need to be off the road from 10:00 PM to 5:00 AM in Costa Rica. This means, in effect, all businesses (stores, restaurants, bars, etc.) must close by 10:00 PM to allow staff to get home.

Social distancing rules and capacity limits are enforced in Costa Rica. Stores, malls, national parks, restaurants, bars, etc. all have to operate at 50% of regular capacity, unless they operate a QR code system to check their customers are fully-vaccinated. If they do that, they can operate at 100% capacity.

Right now in Costa Rica, some businesses have the QR code system in place, while most do not. Costa Rica has mandated mask wearing in all public buildings. One can be without a mask on the street, on the beach, in parks, etc., but not inside.

Cultural/sports events are currently cancelled or have to take place without spectators.

Public sector workers all have to be vaccinated. Private companies can also mandate vaccines for their staff if they wish. Costa Rica has also mandated Covid vaccines for all children over the age of five from March, 2022.

El Salvador

El Salvador removed all Covid restrictions in November, 2021. There are no internal restrictions in El Salvador, although the government recommends vaccination, mask wearing, hand hygiene, and so on.

Guatemala

For a recap on the entry requirements for Guatemala, see here.

There is currently no curfew operating in Guatemala, although a ban on alcohol sales between 2:00 AM and 6:00 AM exists. Bars, restaurants, and similar businesses must close by 11:00 PM and respect occupancy limits/social distancing rules.

Social distancing rules are in place in Guatemala, the exact details of vary by department or municipality. Mask wearing is compulsory in Guatemala in all public, indoor spaces. Technically, they’re also in place for outdoor settings, but that’s not enforced. There are no restrictions for private gatherings.

Honduras

For a recap on the entry requirements for Honduras, see here.

Honduras separates the vaccinated and unvaccinated by mandating a curfew for the unvaccinated only. From 10:00 PM to 5:00 AM, you have to be able to prove you’re vaccinated to be out and about. Honduras has less than half of its population vaccinated, and less than 40% fully-vaccinated, so this affects a great deal of people.

Most businesses are now open, and serve both vaccinated and unvaccinated people (until 10:00 PM, at least). Mask wearing is mandatory in public.

Nicaragua

For a recap on the entry requirements for Nicaragua, see here. Nicaragua has no internal Covid restrictions at all. The government continues to recommend the usual sanitary measures, but mandates nothing.

Panama

For a recap on the entry requirements for Panama, see here.

Panama operates its curfew on a province by province basis, although at this time, nowhere is under curfew.

Most businesses are open, although the Panamanian government has left it up to them on whether they’ll admit unvaccinated customers. Business meetings are allowed in Panama, but only if all participants can show proof of vaccination.

Masks are mandatory in public spaces and transport, and Panama has social distancing rules in places for many businesses.

It’s worth noting here that all these rules are current – meaning they’re in place right now.

But if we’ve learned anything over the past two years, things can change on a dime. For example, the government of Costa Rica wants to impose the QR code segregation, but they can’t. That could change in court. Honduras has a new government assuming power in January. They might change their rules.

And then there’s the global Omicron panic/hysteria engulfing the world. It hasn’t hit Central America yet (the panic/hysteria), but it will. And when it does, what’s to stop El Salvador returning to its previous hardline restrictions against Covid? Or even Nicaragua beginning some restrictions? We don’t know.

Or alternatively, what’s to stop Belize easing up more with its restrictions? Again, we have no idea how things will play out.

But in the meantime, we hope this brief rundown helps. We’ll continue to update this article as situations change on the ground.

James Dyde is the editor of centralamerica.com. He lives in Escazu, Costa Rica.