Health Minister Luis Francisco Sucre announced during a December 15th, 2020 press conference new measures that will be put in place starting December 18th with the goal of slowing the spread of COVID-19 in Panama during the upcoming holiday season. The health officials claim that the gradual re-opening of the economy during the last few months, coupled with recent social gatherings during the November Fiestas Patrias holidays and Mother’s Day, have lead to an amount of transmission that jeopardizes the parameters of Panama’s current re-opening plan.
For example, the current Rt (rate of transmission) is 1.21 nationally and as high as 2.67 in some areas, where it should be 1 or less for the country to continue its re-opening, based on the perimeters set by the Ministry of Heath. A Rt of 1 or less than 1 means that on average, each COVID patient is infecting no more than one other person. Other perimeters involving the health system capacity are currently being met, as there are still an adequate amount of hospital and ICU beds available. However the Ministry of Health feels it is necessary to tighten restrictions in order to avoid a scenario where the country’s medical centers are over-saturated. Health officials are particularly concerned about the spreading of the virus during Christmas and New Year celebrations, and as such, they have developed new health measures with the goal of slowing the spread of COVID-19 in Panama. Here are the important takeaways from the December,15th press conference:
National Curfew 7:00pm-5:00am Starting December 18th
As of Friday, December 18th, 2020, all of Panama will return to a 7:00pm to 5:00am curfew. Delivery services are allowed to operate until 10pm, however the sale of liquor is prohibited after 7pm. Public offices will work at 50% capacity, alternating office days. In the non-office days, the public officials will participate in tending to the needs of the Panama Solidario plan (passing out food relief or whatever is necessary).
Total Quarantine December 25th-28th and January 1st-4th
A total quarantine will be instituted in the whole national territory of Panama starting at 7:00pm on December 25th until 5:00am on December 28th. Another total quarantine will be established from 7:00pm on January 1st until 5:00am on January 4th, 2021.
Airports, Seaports and Borders Remain Open
The WhatsApp and social media rumor mill had many thinking that Panama might once again close its borders and shut down commercial flights after having flights open as of October 12th; however that is not the case. Panama still has its orders open. If you are traveling to Panama, the requirements in this article are still valid, as os December15, 2020: “COVID-19 Entry Requirements for Entering Panama.”
Beaches and Other Swimming and Social Areas Officially Closed December 23rd to January 4th
Perhaps the biggest blow to the Bocas del Toro way of life is the closing of the beaches, after just being officially re-opened on October 24th, 2020. Though the beaches were “closed” during much of the quarantine and it did not seem like many were getting arrested for taking a walk on the beach. It is probable that at least solo physical exercise on the beach, surfing, aerobic swimming and other water sports will still be permitted. In the past, the beach closure measure has been implemented to prohibit tour group activity and discourage large social gatherings on the beach. Nonetheless, the Ministry of Heath announced that as of December 23rd all beaches, rivers, pools, public bathing and social areas are officially closed in Panama until January 4th, 2021.
Other Measures Taking Effect as of December 18th
Also mentioned in the press conference by Health Minister Sucre was the Resolution 1386 of December 11, 2020, prohibiting all activities involving more than 10 people. After speaking with Bocas del Toro Ministry of Health, they were able to confirm that this resolution will not exactly affect the current operations of restaurants, supermarkets, buses and planes. Each one already has its maximum capacity established and this law has been made more to regulate social and work meetings, limiting them to a maximum of 10. Restaurants and supermarkets may still accommodate more than 10 people, just as long as they are within the capacity that MINSA has authorized, which depends on the size of their establishment. However, in the December 15th announcement, there was mention that supermarkets may only receive one family member at a time, with the exception of an adult accompanying a minor or a disabled person.
Health minister Sucre also announced that between December 23rd 5:00am and January 4th at 5:00am, there will be “sanitary fences” set up in communities such as La Pesa de Chorrera, Divisa, Chagres, Viguí and others with the highest incidence of COVID-19 rates. As far as we know, this measure should not affect Bocas del Toro.
Though these rules have been applied to the whole country, the Bocas del Toro province continues to do well slowing the spread of COVID-19, especially the island district. The last report The Bocas Breeze received was 99 active cases in the whole province and 6 cases on the islands. Nonetheless, most of these measures will be applied to all provinces and all people in the Republic of Panamá, including Bocas del Toro.