Hospitals in tourist-haven Costa Rica in 'serious' phase as Covid-19 cases surge

FILE PHOTO: Health workers receive a man with sympthoms of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), outside a hospital in Heredia, Costa Rica May 10, 2021. REUTERS/Mayela Lopez

SAN JOSE (Reuters) - Hospitals in the Central American nation of Costa Rica are running out of space for COVID-19 patients amid a new wave of infections, the president of the national doctors' union said on Tuesday.

The sharp rise in coronavirus infections has led to calls for a fresh lockdown by doctors, potentially dealing another blow to businesses, especially in the tourism sector, which were hoping for an influx of American and European tourists.

Costa Rica on Tuesday reported 26 new confirmed COVID-19 deaths, the largest reported daily toll since the pandemic started.

Edwin Solano, president of the national doctors' union, urged the country's leaders to pay heed to the dire situation on the ground as hospitals run out of space in intensive care units.

"The pandemic has surpassed the capacity of our health system," he said. "There are no beds for COVID patients, there are no ICU beds for COVID. (The situation) is delicate and serious."

Costa Rica has so far recorded 273,714 confirmed coronavirus cases and 3,456 deaths, although both figures are believed to underestimate the actual toll.

The government has been reluctant to impose more restrictions, saying it will further dent an economy badly hit by the pandemic.

"Simply declaring a red alert in the country today will not resolve the situation we are going through," said Alexander Solis, president of the National Emergency Commission.

"On the contrary, it would oblige us to paralyze the country in an instant, with no work, no movement. Sorry, but our country can't do this."

(Reporting by Hector Guzman; Additional reporting by Alvaro Murillo; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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