UPDATED: May 29, 2020 (I am now doing periodic, not daily updates)
Day 81 since the first Covid19 case.
Day 66 since quarantine.
As of May 29, Panama has 12,131 total coronavirus cases and
320 deaths – a 2.64% fatality rate
- See graph below for the new Covid19 case trend.
The graph above shows the number of new coronavirus cases each day from March 27 to May 28, 2020. (FYI, the first confirmed Covid19 case in Panama was on March 9th.)
Unless Panama starts testing more, the number of new cases each day is unlikely to drop much. Typically, Panama tests less than 1000 people a day. With such low testing numbers, many cases are unidentified. These unidentified cases unwittingly infect others with Covid19. Many of these newly infected people are also not tested, and so the new infection wave continues.
Without a consistently higher number of daily tests (and contact tracing), the number of new cases will not keep diminishing. More testing, at least 1000 tests a day, is needed to put a stop to people getting infected. Unfortunately, at this time Panama does not seem to have the capacity to increase testing.
Cases by Location
You can find out the number of cases represented by each red dot area by clicking this link. Then click on a red dot and info will display the coronavirus cases in each “red dot” area.
Gov’t & Other Announcements
Starting Monday, June 1st, there is no more quarantine! No more 2-hour time slots every other day to shop.
However, there will be a curfew. You must stay in your home from 7:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. Children will only be allowed out of the house from 4 to 7 p.m. and must be accompanied by a parent.
The government encourages you to stay in your home at all times unless you need to do something essential.
There are restrictions on your movements during the day:
- No beaches, rivers, or swimming pools
- No leaving your province without a salvoconducto
- There will still be some sanitary circles in various places in Panama that will restrict your movement
Also, everyone must wear a mask and keep 2 meters apart when outside their home.
Block 2 activities will be open for business starting June 1 as well. This includes machinery and equipment manufacturing, energy, gas, vapor, and AC supply industries, as well as churches, parks, and other social areas.
The Tribunal Electoral, Labor, and Immigration offices have not yet announced when they will be reopening.
All quarantine measures are in effect until Monday, June 1st.
There are a few humanitarian flights scheduled in June. They are listed below. Contact the airline to book the flight. For flights that are full, continue checking directly with the airlines for any openings due to cancelations.
- June 3, United Airlines (SOLD OUT) – Tocumen International Airport at 12:30 p.m. to Houston arriving at 4:39 p.m.
- June 3, Spirit Airlines – Tocumen International Airport at 1:00 p.m. to Fort Lauderdale arriving at 5:00 p.m.
- June 10, Spirit Airlines(SOLD OUT) – Tocumen International Airport at 1:00 p.m. to Fort Lauderdale arriving at 5:00 p.m.
- June 10, Copa Airlines – Tocumen International Airport at 7:00 a.m. to Washington, D.C. arriving at 12:47 p.m.
Panama has announced that commercial flights will start to fly into and out of Panama again on June 22nd. However, they may delay it again and that start date does not guarantee that there will be flights to take starting June 22nd. According to Copa Airline’s website they now “hope to resume operations on June 26th”. However, they caution that they will be only gradually offering flights.
You Can Help
Panama’s strict measures seem to be quelling the virus, but they are having a devastating impact on the people whose livelihoods have been eliminated or severely impacted by Panama’s strict quarantine. Even with the opening of the economy, the impacts will be long-lasting.
Many of the people in need 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.
Overall, for the financially devastated as well as for everyone else, there is also the psychological impact of having to stay home. It has now been going on for well over a month now. Panama is trying to provide people with food and psychological counseling and advice, but it is hard to reach everyone.
Even if you are not in Panama, you can still help. This is especially true if you know people in Panama. Reach out to them. Ask if they, or someone they know, need any help. Maybe money (Western Union remains open) or maybe simply a Whatsapp call or text so they know they are not alone in this. You can also ask on local FB, Whatsapp, or other groups if there is a relief effort to which you can contribute. This is a hard time for vulnerable and lower-income people everywhere.
Panama Coronavirus-related Restrictions
Until Monday, June 1, the following restrictions apply.
Children are allowed outside again! As of May 13th, Adults will be allowed to take their children out for outdoor activities on the days and hours authorized according to their gender and last digit of their ID or passport. Rules to go out with children:
- 1km from home only
- 1 child per adult
- If the child is older than 2 years, a face mask is required
- They are not allowed to visit anyone
Panama is opening up! President Cortizo announced that various sectors will begin to gradually open as of May 13. Panama will open up its economy in 6 phases or blocks (see below). (May 13th is also the 2-month anniversary of Panama’s declaration of a state of national emergency due to the coronavirus.)
Although the economy is opening up, the quarantine measures have not been lifted. Therefore, unless you are providing an essential service, you are only allowed out to shop for your allocated 2 hours. Except that starting today, you can now also take a child out to play during your 2-hour time slot (see below).
Opening to achieve a “new normalcy” will happen in 6 blocks.
- 1st block, on May 13: e-commerce venues, mechanical workshops, artisanal fishing, and industrial aquaculture, and technical services (i.e., gardeners, plumbers, electricians, maintenance of air conditioners, elevators, and swimming pools).
- 2nd block (June 1): Public infrastructure construction, non-metallic mining, places of worship, parks, sports arenas, socializing venues (but only when at 25% of capacity and physical distances of 2 meters).
- 3rd block (no date set): Private construction activities, retail (commercial centers), wholesale trade, car sales, professional services (eg., barbershops, beauty salons & car washes), and administrative services.
- 4th Block (no date set): Air transport, hotels, and restaurants.
- 5th block (no date set): Education, recreational transportation (non-essential), sports leagues, and entertainment venues.
- 6th block (when there is a vaccine or treatment): All sectors of the economy open without restrictions, including concerts, fairs, carnivals, and discotheques.
On May 6th, Panama allowed the reopening of hardware and auto parts stores, laundries, and agricultural cooperatives. Hardware and auto parts stores can only operate by phone or online and with restricted hours for both taking orders and deliveries.
Panamanian government officials have cautioned that in order to return to the “new normal”, the country’s companies will have to make adjustments, based on the protocol that the MINSA will soon deliver to them.
Depending on the type of work, there will be specific requirements. However, overall, businesses must ensure the use of personal protective equipment to prevent workers from catching the Covid-19, as well as implement strategies to care for their customers, such as social distancing, more intensive, and better cleaning of the facilities using alcohol gel, and other measures.
NOTE: A business cannot open unless they have a government-approved health plan.
However, the Panamanian government continues its strict measures to prevent the spread of the virus. This includes limiting the time people are allowed outside of their homes to 2 hours. Since April 1st, the 2-hour time slot that a person is allowed to leave their home to shop is allocated based upon gender and the last digit of their cedula/passport number.
This means you must stay in your home or yard except for the 2 hours every other day that you are allowed to leave to use essential services or to take a child (1 child per adult) out to play. See the chart below for the schedule.
Below are the details regarding your allowed shopping times.
- 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 pawnshop services; laundries, gas stations, and insurance services.
- Your 2 hour shopping time slot is assigned according to the last digit of your cedula (or in the case of foreigners, your passport, even if you are a permanent Panama resident.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. If a person’s special needs are not obvious, you may need to bring a letter or some type of medical documentation to “prove” the need for a personal assistant.
- Social distancing is required.
- 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. And as of May 6th, hardware stores and auto parts stores have been added to that list (for delivery only).
- About walking your dog. There is no Executive Decree about walking your dog. However, the Ministry of Health (Minsa) has tweeted 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.
- About taking walks in general. Taking walks are discouraged. MINSA has stated 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. More recently, MINSA has indicated you can leave your house for a walk as long as you stay within 2 meters of your home! Wow, a whole 2 meters (6 feet) from your home! MINSA has admitted that you can be in your yard, as long as your yard can only be accessed by members of your household. I don’t think any Executive Decree has addressed taking walks. I know people who walk to the store during their 2 hours slot. For the most part, they do that without any issues.
The new coronavirus hours for banks are as follows:
- Mon, Wed & Fri — 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.
- Tues, Thurs & Sat — 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.
- Panama has partially lifted Ley Seca (dry law). However, you can only buy a 6 pack of beer OR one bottle of wine, OR one bottle of liquor. And you can only drink it in your home. The limitation is per customer purchases, not per day or week, etc. (This is per Executive Decree 612).
- Enforcement of allowed maximum quantity of alcohol purchased per person rule. Police are stopping people to inspect for alcohol in the car. If more alcoholic beverages are found than allowed per person, the alcohol will be seized and people will receive a penalty. Businesses that violate the rule will be fined as follows. A small store will be fined up to $500, and a large store will be fined from $1,000 to $5,000.
- The use of face masks is mandatory in Panama City whenever you are not at home. Also, local judges have been given the authority to sanction those who do not respect the curfew guidelines with community service.
- Presidential Decree No. 548, extends the suspension of all construction activity for an additional 30 days (i.e., to May 23).
- 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 green circles on the image at the top of the page (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, or whatever your purpose may be.
- Commercial flights ar now suspended for another 30 days. That is, until June 22. The airport is Block or Phase 4 of the reopening plan (see above). Stay tuned, in June they may decide to delay it further. Contact your embassy regarding humanitarian flights if you need to get home – wherever that may be. (Panama had initially closed its airports for 30 days as of March 23rd.)
- You need a permit to drive outside of your 2-hour time slot (“salvoconductos” in Spanish). If caught you will get fined, have your driver’s license suspended for 3 months, and most drastic of all, your vehicle will be impounded by the transit authority (ATTT). (Executive Decree #266)
- To decrease the number of cabs on the road, taxis are assigned days they can operate. That is, taxis with license plates ending in an even number can operate ONLY on Mon, Weds, and Friday from 5 am to 9 pm. Taxis with license plates ending in an odd number can operate ONLY on Tues, Thurs, and Saturday from 5 am to 9 pm. No taxis on Sundays. (effective as of April 3, 2020)
- Panama immigration services are suspended until May 15th. All residency permits (temporary or permanent) expired since March 13, 2020 are valid until May 15, 2020.
- As of May 6th, hardware and auto parts stores, laundries, and agricultural cooperatives are considered essential businesses. You can make your orders to hardware stores only by phone or digitally. They also have restricted hours: Monday to Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 12 noon, and home deliveries will be at the same hours, but only on Monday and Thursday.
- Effective immediately, rental evictions and rent increases are suspended. Executive Decree No. 145, suspends eviction procedures of Ministerio de Vivienda y Ordenamiento Territorial (Miviot), or the Ministry of Housing and Land Management. This is effective for the duration of the state of national emergency and for two months after it is lifted. It covers contracts and leases for residential real estate, commercial establishments, professional, industrial, and educational activities. This does not mean that rental payments during the duration of national emergency and two month period afterward are not still owed. The payments are frozen, not forgiven. Also, no interest or late fees can be applied during this time period. Proprietors that suspend the supply of electricity, water, gas, and other services will be penalized according to Law 93 of 1973. If the tenant’s income has not been affected by the health crisis, he or she should honor the contract and if not, can also be sanctioned under the same Law 93. (effective as of May 2).
- The President announced a moratorium/suspension of payments for 7 months, until Dec. 31, 2020, for various loans & credit card payments. Specifically for 1) Residential mortgage loans, 2) Personal loans, 3) Credit card payments, 4) Auto loans, 4) Small and medium business loans, 6) Commercial loans, 7) Transportation sector loans, and 8) Agricultural sector loans.
- For qualified people who have been impacted by the state of emergency, Bill 295 temporarily suspends payments of public services such as electric power, land and mobile telephone, and the Internet for 4 months starting March 1, 2020. The payments are still owed and the amounts due for that period would be prorated to be paid over 3 years.
- Resolution 383 of April 3, 2020 – the Panama Social Security (Caja del Seguro) suspends fines, surcharges, and interest for late submission or late payment of worker’s monthly salaries for the months of February, March, April and May 2020.
- All Panamanians and residents with E-Cedula that had their contracts legally suspended with the Labor Office will have $80/mo automatically available on the barcode of their cedulas. (effective May 2, 2020)
- 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. (effective as of April 3)
- 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 testing 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.
- Americans overseas, including American expats in 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.
- 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.
- 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
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.
The Ministry of Health has launched a new Covid19 monitoring app called “Protégete”. This app should improve the direct monitoring of COVID-19 positive patients in the country and relieve pressure on the traditional reporting systems (169 telephone hotline / R.O.S.A. WhatsApp system).
The Vice-Minister of Health stated that mental health is an important component of the Panama Solidarity Plan. Those requiring consultations with psychologists and psychiatrists from the Ministry of Health and the CSS can access help via the 169 hotline, the R.O.S.A. system on Whatsapp or by calling 523-6813 of 523-6846 (Spanish only).
Contact R.O.S.A one of 2 ways.
- Call 169. This phone line will connect you to a 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 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 daily updating this section, government aid, and other responses. I will do so only periodically.
- The Ministry of Health has put out an urgent call for plasma donations. Plasma is needed for convalescent plasma injections as an alternative treatment in patients with complications.
- The Panamanian government has implemented its nationwide assistance program, “Plan Panamá Solidario” (Panama Solidarity Plan) to provide urgent help to 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. The Plan Panamá Solidario social assistance program has delivered 575,806 food parcels and 446,388 grocery vouchers as of April 25th.
- 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.
- 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 that require assistance due to the 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).
4 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.
- This site has a great graphic representation of the coronavirus information. You can search the site for information on other countries as well. Here is the epidemic-stats website link with Panama info.
- 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 with 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.