April 21, 2020
Returning to Normal Life? The Next 10 Days Will be Key
The accumulated case count for the Novel Coronavirus, or COVID-19, as of 4pm on April 21, 2020 is 4,821 and 162 are new patients. This is the result of 21,902 accumulated tests, putting Panama at 5,119 tests per 1 million inhabitants. 906 of the tests are new and 162 have resulted in new cases which indicates a 17.8% positive test rate for the last 24 hours. Of the 4,821 accumulated cases, 4,089 are on the order of home isolation (962 in hotels), 362 hospitalized (94 in ICU) and 161 deaths. There have been 231 official laboratory recoveries in which the patient has since tested negative twice for COVID-19. As of yesterday’s press conference there were 1,809 clinically recovered patients. According to MINSA’s official COVID-19 website, there are 13 cases in the Bocas del Toro province: 7 in Changuinola, 2 in Chiriui Grande, 2 in Guabito (1 recovered), 1 in Empalme and 1 in Almirante.
Dr. Rodrigo De Antonio, advisor to the Ministry of Health, gave an updated presentation on the behavior of the virus in Panama and what it may mean for loosening restrictions on quarantine measures. The doctor first presented a graph on the duplication rate of the virus. When the COVID-19 pandemic reached Panama on March 9, the duplication rate of the virus in the beginning was between 1-3 days, meaning that case numbers would double every 1-3 days. The team of consultants set a goal for a duplication rate of 10 days or more, in order to not oversaturate the medical facilities in Panama. That goal has since been reached, where as of yesterday, April 20, the duplication rate of the Novel Coronavirus in Panama is 16 days. This is positive news.
The other key epidemiological statistic that the team of consultants is using to measure results and to consider policy recommendations is the “effective reproduction rate.” This refers to the amount of contacts that one contagious individual will infect on average. The Ministry of Health;s stated goal in containing the spread of COVID-19, is for the virus to have an effective reproductive rate of Rt 1 or less. Panama on the national level has averaged about Rt 1 since April 14. This is a good sign, says Dr. Rodrigo de Antonio, but they are monitoring each province individually as some areas, like Chiriqui and Colon, have effective reproductive rates that are higher than Rt 1 and their numbers are far from steady. Nonetheless, Dr. De Antonio affirms that first objective has been met and the team of consultants are currently strategizing on the next steps: “We are observing that our first objective has been achieved, which was to save time and avoid the saturation of the health system…This will give us some time to evaluate what the next measures will be and begin to think of a gradual plan for the lifting of quarantine measures,” says Dr. De Antonio. He concluded that the next 10 days will be important and that if the current trends continue to improve, quarantine measures should be lifted. Health minister Dr. Rosario Turner reiterated that steps will be taken based on the trends of the next 10 days and also commented that a first draft for the “normalization of the country” has been submitted to President Laurentino Cortizo Cohen.
Speaking of plans to loosen quarantine restrictions, there has been an image circulating social media of a list of dates for different provinces lifting quarantine measures. To the best of our knowledge and expertise, this graphic is fake. Although it is fashioned to look like an official communication with the formatting and logos of “Panama Solidario,” there are inconsistencies in the formatting, misspellings and calendar inaccuracies. We have not seen any mention of this information from any official sources and based on its quality, we are very certain it has been falsified. We remind our readers to be careful about spreading false information.