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On the Brink- a New Phase In Panama’s COVID-19 Restrictions

by Beth McGuyton on August 24, 2020
On the Brink- a New Phase In Panama’s COVID-19 Restrictions

After a full five months of lockdown in Panama and Panama Oeste, we begin a new phase where our time out expands significantly. After the five day taste we had a while back which was quickly reversed, many now are warier of the new freedom.

On a Zoom call with friends last night, it was odd to find us reminiscing about events through this time and laughing. There was a new thread, one of hope, which has been missing. With the hope comes caution. After all, this virus only gets to move when we move. The original advice remains true: hand washing, social distancing, wearing a mask (though initially conflicting information was published and it blew up into a completely unnecessary political issue) are your best defenses.

Panama has adapted well to masks, the myriad of colors and styles is a testament to their creativity.  Stylish coordination is on view everywhere.

As we slowly begin the return to the freedom of movement (still gender-segregated for now), we must remain vigilant. It is important to continue the efforts to slow the spread in the hopes of eventual eradication. Panama has stepped up community testing efforts, testing with or without symptoms, finding cases of carriers, and follow through contract tracing.

As testing improves and rapid testing deploys, community safety will be advanced and the economy can restart. Then and only then, can we rebuild from the ashes of COVID.

There has been plenty of discussions online, the communities here are very vocal, both positive and negative.

When you consider this pandemic is novel, new, unknown, and unpredictable, the government has done what it could with the information available, following the science and flattening the curve to not overwhelm the health system. In this, they have been successful. Yes, there are failings, missteps, and mistakes but no one knew what they were doing and without the ability to print money, the economic assistance, though minimal, was what could be done.

It’s not just a matter of cases and deaths. The long term effects of COVID are only now coming to light. Even those showing no symptoms have potential life-altering damage to internal organs. Each person must be responsible for not only their health but the community at large. Wearing even a cloth mask reduces your chances of infection by up to 90%. Though not a perfect solution, it’s the best we have for now.

Among the expats, some have left, returned to their old lives for reasons far and wide. Those who remain will be the ones to rebuild. This begs the question: what do you want your community to be?

Here at the beach, we found a warm, fun-loving, quirky community of people who were all here for a better life. Hugs were rampant, get-togethers easy, alcohol flowed yet there were never any fights in the bars, people move from one table to another with a true sense of community. While this may come across as fantasy, this was truly our experience.

Traveling back to our previous home (pre-COVID), we were taken aback by the negativity everywhere, and were relieved to return to our Panamanian paradise.

There are specific people who have gone above and beyond. Karyn Saunders has provided daily translations of the latest news from the government, reporting even when the news was negative, always keeping her head up throughout. She is a community hero.

Many organizations and businesses have supported the locals, feeding, clothing and caring for families in need. Services have popped up to deliver anything you need, folks have become entrepreneurs as their income dried up and have found new avenues.

Key to rebuilding is supporting our local businesses, many have closed but those struggling to remain open or reopen as restrictions are loosened need our help.

As we step towards this next phase, remain alert, stay home when you can, stay up to date with the latest local information, and stay healthy.

When this is all over, imagine the celebration!





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