Skip to content
El Salvador promotes fitness

Is El Salvador the First Country in the World to Promote Fitness and Wellbeing to Combat Covid?

El Salvador begins promoting a healthy lifestyle and weight loss as the ideal way to combat Covid. It could well be the first country in the world to do so, and deserves praise.

Credit where credit’s due. We’re often super critical about the government of Nayib Bukele in El Salvador, but when they get it right, we’ll say so.

And this week, Bukele’s government got it spot on by becoming the first country in Central America to begin actively pushing and promoting a healthy lifestyle as a way to combat Covid. Did I say first country in Central America? El Salvador could be the first country in the world to take such a stance.

It’s certainly not happening in the United States, Canada, or Europe, let alone elsewhere in Central America. Which is, quite frankly, criminal.

While other countries focus on vaccination and nothing else as the key to get out of the pandemic, El Salvador is now taking a different tack.

It’s finally acknowledging the well known fact that it’s the obese who experience the most bad outcomes of Covid, whether vaccinated or not. Despite most governments and media ignoring this over the past two years – the stats are clear. Most people hospitalized for Covid are obese.

And when even CNN start writing articles about this – you know the writing’s on the wall – even if they’re coming two years too late.

If the United States didn’t have some 42% of its adult population as obese, you can be reasonably sure it would have a far lower mortality rate from Covid. Ditto the U.K. and other countries with high obesity rates, including Central American countries where obesity is a growing issue.

But back to El Salvador.

Although El Salvador is late to the game in promoting weight loss as a weapon against Covid, it’s still early. Like when you have a party and ask people to show up at 7:00 PM, but the first person arrives at 10:00. That’s El Salvador. They’ve still arrived before everyone else, and that’s commendable.

The campaign video, tweeted by President Bukele this week, tells Salvadorans that being unhealthy means their chances of a bad Covid outcome are higher. It advises Salvadorans to exercise and try to reach their ideal body weights, eat well, and take in vitamin D from the sun – another weapon against Covid.

These are all things known for a long time to help with Covid, but all things ignored by governments and media around the world until now. So it’s great to see El Salvador become the first country to make this move, even if Bukele is getting criticism on Twitter for it – which is incredible.

It would be even greater if the rest of the region – and the world – followed suit with campaigns like this instead of trying to drum up hatred and division between the vaccinated and unvaccinated.

El Salvador was the first country in Central America to shut its borders and lock down in March, 2020.

This happened before it even had a single positive Covid case. The initial lockdown was one of the harshest in the region, attracting a lot of criticism.

But since the vaccination program begun, El Salvador has performed a u-turn of sorts, in the way it’s handling the pandemic.

In November 2021, it finally dropped all final Covid restrictions to enter the country, joining Costa Rica in eliminating testing requirements. No curfews or internal restrictions exist, although El Salvador still recommends mask wearing, social distancing, and so on.

El Salvador has just over 3,800 deaths from/with Covid out of a total of some 122,000 reported cases. As it stands, 64% of its population are fully-vaccinated.

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

James Dyde

James Dyde

James Dyde is a British immigrant to Costa Rica and the editor of this website. He has lived in Central America since 2000 and retains a deep love for the region. He lives in Escazu, Costa Rica.