DAILY UPDATE: April 8, 2020
Day 30. Currently, Panama has 2100 confirmed coronavirus cases.
149 new cases since yesterday
59 deaths (+4) – a 2.6% fatality rate
1906 at home
268 in hospital (91 of those in ICU)
16 people have recovered from the coronavirus so far.
- Of the total, 1354 (60.20%) are men and 895 (39.79%) are women. Interestingly, women represent an increasingly lower % of the total number of cases.
Need To Leave Panama? Scroll down to “Related News” section for flight options including a Spirit Airline flight on April 11th.
Looking At New Case Statistics
Well, number of new cases today (149), is unfortunately, 37 more than yesterdays number of 112. Only time will tell if this decline is a blip or the start of a flattening of the curve.
Today is day 13 since the quarantine measures started. We should be seeing a start of a downward trend, but we are not, unless it is a very erratic one. Only time will tell. According to statistics, around day 12 of a quarantine is when a decline should begin. Unfortunately, given the state of testing, that is the number and conditions that warrant testing, that might not be applicable here.
You can see the trend of new confirmed covid19 cases overtime in the bar graph below.
Cases by Location
They have improved the location map (see image above) by making the locations of coronavirus cases (the red dots) more precise. You can find out more about the number of cases in each red dot area by clicking this link. Then click on a red dot and info will display about the coronavirus cases in each “red dot” area.
My home in Panama is in the beach town of Puerto Armuelles. So I am particularly interested in what is going on there. After having no confirmed cases for a while, there are now 2 confirmed cases of Covid19 in the Puerto Armuelles area, both reported to be “at home”.
However, although their primary home is located in Puerto Armuelles, those 2 people/cases are not anywhere near Puerto Armuelles. One is a miner working in the Cocle province. His home is in Puerto Armuelles, but he has not been there in 2 months. He is being quarantined in his “temporary” home in the Cocle province. My understanding is the other Porteno is currently residing in Panama City.
This is an interesting insight into the statistics. The location of cases seem to be reported not by where a person currently lives, but by their home town residence. I don’t know if this type of reporting is universal, but does call into question the accuracy of the map of Covid19 cases in Panama (see image above).
You Can Help
The quarantine has made it extremely difficult for many already living day-by-day people to feed themselves and their families. Some of those people could be your neighbors, the staff from your favorite restaurant, or your taxi driver.
If you have a financial cushion, you can help them. Here is one thing you could do: When you go shopping during your 2 hour time slot, pick up some extra food. Rice and beans are always useful. It doesn’t have to be a lot of food or expensive. Imagine you are a mom or dad struggling to feed your kids, anything is appreciated. Of course, not everyone can do this. But if you are financially able, please drop off some food to some folks you think may be struggling during this pandemic.
NEW – Panama’s Ministry of Health announced last night (April 7) that people are required to wear a mask when leaving the house. CDC (see below) is recommending it, but Panama is requiring it. To read/watch the announcement on TNV – in Spanish- click here.
Keep reading for info and resources on how to make a mask. When CDC first made their recommendation I made a mask/face covering for myself very quickly with part of a t-shirt and safety pins. Remember, for the protection to be effective, you cannot touch the front of your mask!
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC ) is now recommending that people wear face masks if they will be in public. This is a big change.
Before these authorities were saying you only need to wear a mask if you are ill. You wore it to protect others. Now they are saying you need to wear a mask to protect yourself. This indicates the virus may be airborne – staying in the air longer than respiratory drops do.
The recommendation is also an acknowledgement that pre or asymptomatic people are carriers. Which means you may be contagious without knowing it, therefore everyone should wear a mask to protect others. Recently, Dr Fauci has stated that 20 – 50% of people could be asymptomatic.
Wearing a mask does not mean you don’t need to maintain social distancing or to wash your hands frequently and well. You still need to do both. Let’s do everything we can to keep ourselves and each other healthy.
There are many online resources about making DIY face masks. Some are more effective than others. The key is to make it snug against your face. Also, like touching your face, you need to be careful about touching the mask while wearing it and removing it. Wash your mask after each use, do not reuse it, or eat while wearing it.
(Click this link for CDC’s DIY mask details and instructions.)
If you can make extra masks, please share them with others who may need them – including with your local hospital.
Panama Coronavirus-related Restrictions
The Panamanian government has implemented very strict measures to prevent the spread of the virus. These measures are impacting daily life in Panama. Some have severely impacted travel into and out of, and even within, Panama.
The Panamanian government’s Coronavirus-related restrictions and bans are listed below. The most recent or most important to know about are listed first. Some of the restrictions listed further down in the list may have been superseded by more recent measures.
- NEW – Panama’s Ministry of Health announced last night (April 7) that people are required to wear a mask when leaving the house. (read “Personal Protection” above for more information)
- Starting Friday, April 3rd, taxis can only be on the road every other day. That is, taxis with license plates ending in an even number can operate ONLY on Mon, Weds, and Friday from 5am to 9pm. Taxis with license plates ending in an odd number can operate ONLY on Tues, Thurs, and Saturday from 5am to 9pm. No taxis on Sundays.
- Quarantine restrictions by Gender (as of April 1)
- Women can leave their home only on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. And only for the 2 hour time slot per the last number of their ID# (see chart below)
- Men can leave their home only on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. And only for the 2 hour time slot per the last number of their ID# (see chart below)
- People 60 and older and disabled people who need assistance can be helped by someone of either gender. They, like everyone else have the same 2 hour slot but on alternate days, depending upon their gender.
- People are not allowed to leave their house on Sunday.
- Remember, Panama is under a total quarantine (per Executive Decree No. 507 of March 24). This means you must stay in your home, except for 2 designated hours a day and per the gender restrictions above and the following restrictions and exceptions.
- You can only leave your house to go to the following locations: supermarkets, mini-supermarkets, grocery stores; medicines or health services in pharmacies, clinics, hospitals, health centers or veterinary clinics; banking, financial, cooperative and pawn shop services; laundries, gas stations, and insurance services.
- You can shop only for a specified 2 hours time slot (see chart below)
- Depending upon the last digit of your cedula (or in the case of foreigners, your passport) you are assigned a 2 hour time slot.
- Regardless of your ID number, if you are 60 years of age or older or disabled your time slot is 11 a.m. at 1:00 p.m.
- Social distancing is required.
- Only 1 person per household is allowed to travel during the 2 hour time slot. However, if someone has special needs, another person is allowed to assist the other. So a total of 2 people max. This is one of the exceptions to the mandatory quarantine. If a person’s special needs are not obvious, you may need to bring a letter or some type of medical document to “prove” the need for a personal assistant.
- Restaurant deliveries are still allowed.
- Banks, gas stations, hotels, veterinarians, and other health, safety, and transportation services are permitted to remain open, although their hours may change.
- About walking your dog. Finally, some clarity on walking your dog, though it does not seem realistic. The Ministry of Health (Minsa), on its Twitter account, tweeted: “a pet is an important member of many Panamanian families.” They explained that dog owners cannot take their pets “for a walk” in the neighborhood. However, the pet can be in the owner’s yard during the owner’s 2 hour time slot.
Minsa recommends that before going back into the home, the animal be groomed with a towel moistened with soap and water. They also tweeted: “If you do not have a green area or garden, we recommend you designate a space in your residence for the pet to meet its needs.” They further recommended that you should use clean implements to collect the feces and deposit them in the garbage. (FYI – as of March 28, no Executive Decree formally establishes times or method for walking pets.)
- About taking walks in general. A recent article in the Panama Newsroom suggests that walks are discouraged. They reported that Nadja Porcell, Director-General of the Ministry of Health (Minsa), says that the two hour period designated for people to go out to buy necessities doesn’t mean using that time slot to take a walk.
- You can go out into your yard, as long as your yard can only be accessed by members of your household. The idea is not to hang out in shared community spaces.
Below are the HOURS that you can shop for necessities each day. It can be confusing. I originally misunderstood it. The time that you can start shopping is half an hour into your 2 hour time slot (except if you are disabled or 60 or older, see below). This is because they allocate 30 minutes of travel, each way, going to and from your home.
I do like how they linked the ID number to the time you can start shopping. For example, if your ID# ends in a 3, your time to start shopping is at 3pm. If it ends in a 4, it starts at 4pm, and so on. The times slots in the image below are listed from earliest to latest.
Be prepared to have your ID checked before being allowed to enter a store or at curfew checkpoints.
During the total quarantine, all foreigners must carry their passport – even permanent residents of Panama. You are allowed to carry a copy of your passport, as long as it is legible. This rule applies even if your passport is expired.
NOTE: Some people have reported that a few police officers do not know that foreigners must use the last number of their passport, not their cedula. You may want to print or take a photo with your cellphone of this notice which states the rule, in Spanish, to show to a police officer as necessary.
The curfew is 24 hours excepting the 2 hours you are assigned for shopping and other necessities only.
Remember, now you can only leave your house 3 days a week. Which 3 days depends upon your gender (see top of the chart, above). Unless, you are an essential worker, no one is allowed to leave their homes on Sundays.
New Banking Hours
Banks will remain open during the total quarantine but must adopt measures to guarantee timely services and attention. The following banks are open per a government mandated schedule: Banco Nacional, Banco General, BAC Credomatic, Banco Aliado, Banistmo, Multibank. Banesco, Bicsa, Scotiabank, Caja de Ahorros, and St Georges Bank.
The new coronavirus hours for banks are as follows:
- Mon, Tues & Fri — 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.
- Tues, Thurs & Sat — 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Additional Critical Bans/Restrictions
- Panama prohibits the sale OR consumption of alcohol (per Article 7 of Executive Decree No. 507).
- Remember, the curfew is now 24 hours excepting the 2 hours you are assigned for shopping and other necessities only. You should take the curfew seriously. People who violate the curfew are being arrested and/or heavily fined.
- Even on your “allowed” shopping trips, your movements may be restricted. On March 20, Panama began designating Cercos Sanitario (sanitary circles or fences) in order to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The blue circles on the image above (and seen on this site) indicate their locations. You must pass through checkpoints to be allowed to enter or leave the circle. You must show a utility bill or some proof that you are traveling to your home or that you need to travel for work. At some checkpoints, they are also taking people’s temperatures. However, the map may not be kept completely up-to-date. Therefore, if you are on the road, keep in mind that the number of these circles keep growing. You may want to carry a utility bill (or some proof of residence or work need) so they will allow you to go home or to work. If you have secured a humanitarian flight out of the country, make sure you bring proof of your flight with you.
- No commercial flights into or out of Panama for 30 days, until April 21st. See this post for more information. Only humanitarian flights are allowed to land in Panama.
- Only citizens and residents are allowed entry into the country. And they are required to go into home quarantine for 14 days immediately upon their arrival. For more info, see this post.
- March 21 – April 20 – Most businesses must close per Executive Decree no. 500. Plus, the following closures were already mandated prior to Decree No. 500.
- Bars, discotheques, night clubs, casinos, theaters, cinemas are prohibited from operating.
- Indoor and outdoor playgrounds, gyms, sports fields and courts have been shut down.
- Restaurants may continue to operate but can only offer take-out and delivery options. Eating in restaurants is prohibited.
- Fairs, conventions, cultural events, religious gatherings, concerts and sporting events have been banned throughout the entire country.
- Access to beaches, rivers and public swimming pools has been banned
- Executive Decree no. 500 does allow essential services to remain open: Food production (including distribution and sales of food), Pharmacies, Gas stations, Restaurants (delivery & take out only!), Hospitals & private clinics and other medical facilities, Laundry services, All transportation (land, air, maritime), Veterinary & agricultural supplies, private security, printers, banking, companies that provide public services (communications, electricity, water, funeral homes and such), and Construction materials (supply and manufacturing).
- Keep in mind, although restaurants are allowed to remain open for delivery and take-out, some are choosing to close. Therefore, there are fewer meal options available. If you can order food from a local restaurant, they would very much appreciate you business. These measures are devastating to small businesses.
- All public and private gatherings of over 20 people are prohibited. There are strict fines for violating this sanction.
- Passengers on cruise ships that have visited high-risk areas are prohibited from disembarking. Also, if there is someone onboard with Covid19, the ship is not allowed to transit the canal. This has impacted many cruise ships, most famously the Zandaam. The Zandaam was denied transit due to 2 of their passengers having the coronavirus. Now 4 passengers have died, each of a different nationality: American, Swiss, English, and Holland. Another cruise ship, the Rotterdam is currently (March 27 – 28) hygienically transferring 401 healthy patients from the Zandaam to their ship, so these passengers can continue their journey. Subsequently, in a change of policy, the Zandaam now has been allowed to transit the canal and to proceed to Florida. After initially saying no, the governor of Florida is now allowing the Zandaam and another infected cruise ship to dock in Florida. People who are ill are being transferred to hospitals.
- All Copa Airline flights (domestic and international) are cancelled: March 22nd at 11:59 pm until April 21st. For more information on flight changes and more, check their website.
- Air Panama has now suspended their domestic flights. See their website for details
- April 5: The Canadian Embassy in Panama is in the process of coordinating a one-way flight to Canada from Panama. Canadians should register for ROCA to keep informed on flight details. You can register for ROCA on the Canadian Embassy website. All travelers arriving in Canada MUST self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival at their final destination. The Canadian Embassy in Panama continues to provide emergency consular assistance in Panama. Canadians can call the Embassy at 294-2500 or email [email protected] for urgent assistance. The Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa can also be reached toll free at
+1 613 996 8885 or via email at: [email protected]
- Spirit Airlines is offering a flight from Panama Tocumen International airport to Fort Lauderdale on April 11, 2020. Travelers may purchase tickets for this flight on the Spirit Airlines website. Travelers will be responsible for their onward travel arrangements from Fort Lauderdale Airport.
- US Citizens & Residents in Panama should watch this video by the US Embassy in Panama. It encourages you to enroll in STEP. It also instructs you on how to get on a list of people wanting to depart Panama. The US Embassy in Panama City is updating its Facebook page with information and the flights being offered.
- US government is offering evacuation flights on military planes on April 2nd and 4th. It is not cheap. Check out this link for the details.
- As of April 3 and until further notice, the US Postal Service will not accept mail bound for Panama due to service disruptions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. These service disruptions affect Priority Mail Express International® (PMEI), Priority Mail International® (PMI), First-Class Mail International® (FCMI), First-Class Package International Service® (FCPIS®), International Priority Airmail® (IPA®), International Surface Air Lift® (ISAL®), and M-Bag® items.
- Panama will be part of a World Health Organization (WHO) study. The goal of the study is to discover the most effective treatment against the coronavirus. They will be testiing the efficacy of four drugs in treating patients affected by the virus. According to the Minister of Health, Panama was chosen because of the transparent way in which it has handled the information related to the pandemic.
- Work permits for foreign workers that expired on or after March 12, 2020 will now be extended until April 30, 2020 (per Ministry of Labor’s resolution DM-149-2020 of March 30, 2020).
- Americans overseas, including Panama!, are eligible for the coronavirus aid in the Coronavirus stimulus bill that the US Congress passed on March 27th. Check out this post for details.
- Panama is helping with your electricity bill. For 3 months (April, May, June) there will be a 50% reduction in electrical bills for households that use 300 kilowatts or less, and a 30% reduction for those who use 301 kilowatts or more. Plus no electrical service will be cut for lack of payment during this period
- In addition, companies cannot cut off your Internet or water service over the next 3 months.
- If you are doing due diligence or various official tasks, you can still access the public registry online. Public notaries are allowed to be open, but most closed. Some are open alternate day and some are available online. However, Immigration, the Tribunal Electoral, and the Ministry of Labor, and many other government offices are closed. Any pending applications in these offices will be put on hold.
- Specifically, Immigration offices are closed until April 30th, 2020. All immigration processes are suspended until then.
- On an expired tourist visa, or driving past 90 days in the country? Relax. Immigration is not enforcing immigration rules. Normally, if you stay past your visa term, you would be on the hook for a $50/month fine. And in normal times, if you are caught, you could also be detained.
Coronavirus Assessment, Treatment & Testing
Panama’s Ministry of Health (MINSA) asks that if you have traveled to a country or have been in contact with someone who has traveled to countries with cases of the coronavirus and has fever, dry cough and sore throat, call line 169 and the WhatsApp number +507 6997-2539.
The MINSA call center uses a virtual assessment tool, R.O.S.A., to help combat the pandemic. R.O.S.A. stands for Automatic Health Operative Response. The call center works 24 hours a day to attend to people who present any symptoms of COVID-19. Their rapid response teams are also available to make 2 to 3 calls a day to travelers for epidemiological observation.
AIG general manager Luis Oliva reported that in 72 hours of operation of R.O.S.A, they have consulted with 10,000 people.
- 8,800 thousand people via WhatsApp
- 1,200 via telephone
- Only 1% have been false calls
If you believe you have the coronavirus, contact R.O.S.A one of 2 ways.
- Call 169. This phone line will connect you to a call center call center that is manned by rapid response teams (consisting of a doctor, a nurse, a police officer). They will ask you a series of questions. Based on your answers they will decide on the next steps for you.
- +507 6997-1234. This WhatsApp number will ask you a few questions to determine if you need to speak with a doctor. If yes, the doctor will then determine if you need a rapid response team at home, an ambulance, or some other measure.
- If you have Whatsapp, you can also contact ROSA via this link. This allows you to text. Very helpful if you need to use Google Translate in order to communicate in Spanish.
Only call 911 if you are a critically ill and in need of urgent care.
Don’t have the coronavirus, but want to talk with a doctor virtually, call the number below.
- Call 199
Coronavirus test kits have been distributed to public hospitals in all the main population centers throughout Panama. Additional test kits are on order. Some kits will be distributed to private hospitals as well. It typically takes 72 hours to get the result of your test.
When It Started In Panama
The first case of the Coronavirus in Panama was discovered on March 9, 2020. A Panamanian woman, who had flown back from Spain the day before, started feeling ill. She went to the hospital, was tested, and was immediately put under quarantine at home.
The next day, March 10th, the first death due to the Coronavirus in Panama occurred. The gentleman who died was a director of a high school in Panama City. He was 64 years old and a diabetic. He died from virus-associated pneumonia. In addition, 2 teachers from the same high school were hospitalized in intensive care.
Government Aid & Other Responses
Below are some of the ways the Panama government has responded to help workers, businesses, and consumers. NOTE: I am not updating this section, government aid and other responses,daily. I will do so periodically.
- Because ICU facilities are somewhat limited, the Panamanian government ordered the construction of a modular hospital in the Albrook area of Panama City. It will house an additional 100 beds with ventilator units. The hospital is currently expected to receive patients by mid-April. In the future, it will be relocated to another area of the country.
- The expiration date of all Panama driver’s licenses expiring in March, April, or May 2020, are extended until June 30th
- The Mayor of Panama City is extending until June 30th the deadline for paying taxes, fees, special contributions, municipal fees and fines, and vehicle plates. This applies to citizens and foreign residents. Visit www.mupa.gob.pa for more information.
- Panama is helping with your electricity bill. For 3 months (April, May, June) there will be a 50% reduction in electrical bills for households that use 300 kilowatts or less, and a 30% reduction for those who use 301 kilowatts or more. Plus no electrical service will be cut for lack of payment during this period.
- The Panamanian government has implemented its nationwide assistance program, “Plan Panamá Solidario” (Panama Solidarity Plan) to provide urgent help those families that are most adversely affected by COVID-19. Grocery vouchers and boxes of basic food items are currently being distributed to approximately 1.3 million Panamanians and residents who are deemed most at-risk by the local authorities.
- Fire departments are now working with the Social Services Ministry (Caja de Seguro Social) to deliver free medication directly to the homes of chronically ill patients so that they do not have to travel to medical clinics during this quarantine period.
- Many financial institutions in Panama are allowing debtors to defer payments on their loans (mortgages, car loans, personal loans) and credit card balances for three months, without generating penalties for late fees or affecting an individual’s credit score. (Important: You must contact your financial institution directly to request that your loan payments be deferred. Most banks have automatically eliminated the minimum payment requirement for credit card balances.)
- Employers have been asked to allow telecommuting for as many employees as possible. Employers have also been asked to stagger work hours. This is to reduce the number of people using public transit at any one time.
- The government has allocated money to buy more medical equipment (mechanical ventilators, monitors and intensive care beds). This will ensure the equipment is on hand as more Covid19 cases develop. Furthermore, intensive care wards have also been expanded throughout the country’s public hospitals.
- Strict fines have been put in place by the Consumer Protection Agency to prohibit price gouging by local merchants. Additionally, merchants have been instructed to restrict the number of essential cleaning and personal hygiene items (hand sanitizer, bleach, alcohol, toilet paper) an individual can purchase at one time. This is to ensure a steady supply for the general population.
- Special financing will be made available to small businesses who require assistance due to impacts of the coronavirus and related government restrictions.
- Immigration is offering extensions on temporary residency IDs that are expiring in the next couple of weeks.
- Regular public education campaigns are being broadcast via local media and text by the Ministry of Health (MINSA) and the National Disaster Response Unit (SINAPROC).
3 Sources – Online Tally of Covid19 Cases
- For information on cases in Panama, check this Geosocial website. It updates once daily. It provides info by areas of Panama, the number of people hospitalized or at home, and data on the number of people tested.
- The Worldmeters website is a good resource for worldwide info on the pandemic. It also updates once a day.
- An early coronavirus website, gives up-to-the-minute worldwide, country and in the case of some counties like the US and Canada, by state or province tally of coronavirus cases. It also offers information about the virus, symptoms, and how to keep healthy as well (click “wiki” in menu for that info). The site was created by a junior in Seattle-area high school. Click for an interview of him.
Panama Gov’t Daily Update Source
Official government press conferences and presidential addresses are presented daily at 6:00 pm on local Panamanian news channels (TVN and Telemetro). Recordings can also be viewed online at: https://www.tvn-2.com/pass/tvn/ (Spanish only).
World Health Organization (WHO) Info
For more information on the coronavirus, check out the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website.
WHO also has a Whatsapp group, click this link to join.
All information in this post comes from reliable news sources or directly from Panamanian government sources.
Your comments and input are appreciated.