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Living in Panama During the Covid-19 Pandemic

updated April 19, 2020

Panama has been very proactive in fighting the spread of the Covid-19 virus in Panama. On March 9th they recorded their first case, a school teacher who had traveled to Italy.  Now, on April 19th there are 4300 cases of the Covid-10 virus and 125 deaths.   Panama has tried a variety of things to slow down the spread of the virus.

Initially, Panama closed their borders to travelers from China and Europe.  But once Panama got their first case, they closed their borders to any and all travel in to the country.   Later in March, Panama closed their borders completely to also prevent anyone from leaving the country to hopefully prevent the spread of the virus.

quarantine hours panamaEvery day the Ministry of Health (MINSA) and President Cortizo send out announcements encouraging people to stay home and practice social distancing.  They also offer instructions about how to prevent catching the virus.

In early March, Panama enacted a curfew from 9pm to 5am in hopes it would stop people from hanging out together and spreading the virus.  They also banned all alcohol sales which seemed to upset people more than the curfew.

But when that didn’t slow down the spread of the virus, Panama quickly went to a 5pm to 5am curfew to hopefully slow down the spread of the virus in Panama.

When that did not work, they changed to a new curfew that you could only leave your house for 2 hours a day based on the last number of your cedula (National ID card) or for foreigners the last number of your passport.  People who are 60+ could only go out from 11-1 each day and only go out to a grocery store, pharmacy, hardware store, bank or doctor.

Because the number of new cases of the virus kept going up, Panama enacted an even stricter quarantine rules.  The majority of the Covid-19 cases in or near Panama City.  There has been some looting in Panama City but for the most part, everyone is handling the curfew well.  There have been 26,914 tests for the Covid-19 virus.

New Curfew Rules

Now, women are permitted to leave their house on Monday, Wednesday and Friday during their designated times.   Men are allowed to leave their house on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday during their designated times. No one can leave their house on Sunday.

Long before Panama had any cases of the virus, they ordered millions of test kits, masks and other personal protection equipment. Elon Musk, of Tesla, has donated 1250 ventilators to Panama to add to the hundreds they already have.

Panama set up a special hotline number to call or Whatsapp if you think you have the Covid-19 virus.  After asking a series of questions, if they determine that you might have the virus, they will send a doctor or nurse to your house to perform the test.  They do NOT want people going to the hospital or doctor’s office if they think they have the Covid-19 virus.  If the doctor thinks it is necessary for you to be hospitalized, they will make the arrangements for an ambulance to transport you.   Ninety percent of the people who test positive are able to stay home and the doctor follows up with you daily.

bags of food panamaHotels and other non-essential businesses have been shut down.  All malls are closed.  No weekly massage for me!  Some hotels have been set up to be a make-shift hospital just in case it is necessary.

Most restaurants are closed.  A few restaurants are offering take-out or home delivery.   Banks have restricted hours too.

The government worked with banks and utility companies in Panama so that no one has to make a house payment, car payment or credit card payment for the next 4 months.  They have also told everyone that for the next 4 months, their electricity, internet and cell phone will not be shut off for not paying their bills.

Panama has been delivering millions of bags of food to poor people in Panama and they are working on a system to add money to Panamanian cedulas so people who are unemployed have cash available to buy groceries.  They have set aside $1.6 billion dollars to help Panamanians in need during the pandemic.  As you’ll see in the President’s speech below, Panama will be adding money to Panamanian’s cedula so they can use it to buy groceries and other essentials.

FOR ME …I sure do miss doing the Panama Relocation Tours.  But I’m also enjoying some relaxing time at home.  My daughter Melissa is with me.  Luckily, I have a greenhouse full of food so I rarely need to leave my house.    We’re still able to get Amazon orders too.    When I do go out, it is encouraging to see most people wearing a mask and gloves.  People working at the grocery store all wear masks and gloves.  The police all have on masks and gloves too. And most shoppers have on masks and gloves too.

Our grocery stores are well stocked. We even have bleach and toilet paper which I hear are in short supply in North America.  Pharmacies sell masks.

The weather is perfect!  We’re transitioning in to the rainy season.. finally!  The skies have been a little more cloudy and we had a few drops of rain yesterday.  I’m ready for a big rain and so are my flowers.  I honestly would not want to be anywhere else doing this global pandemic!

Panama Relocation GuideThe Panama Relocation Tours are SOLD OUT through the end of 2020 and early 2021 but we are taking reservations for March 2021 and beyond.  We’re not sure when the borders will open to Panama.  We’re hoping they will open again in late May.   When Panama does open the borders again, we’ll start doing Panama Relocation Tours again.

We know many people are anxious to relocate to Panama as soon as the pandemic is over.   You need the information from a Panama Relocation Tour to have a smooth transition.  Because our tours are sold out, we’re now offering an ONLINE version of the Tour called The Complete Panama Relocation Guide.  It contains all the information you need to relocate to Panama the easy, stress-free way.  And it’s available 24/7.

SEE DETAILS HERE

A few weeks ago, when Panama went to the 2-hour a day curfew, the President of Panama gave this moving speech:

president of panama“Good afternoon, I wanted to take this opportunity to communicate to the country about what we’re doing and what we’re going to do. The world and Panama is facing a difficult moment. It’s a moment of uncertainty. This is going to be a hard war, a prolonged and President of Panamaextensive war, but I don’t have any doubt that we’re going to win it. A team has been established to mitigate all the effects of the virus, health effects, social effects, and economic effects. How did we come to the decision to put these measures in place? In light of evidence. ‘You have to do this, you have to do that’ – in this kind of situation that stuff isn’t worth much, we have to support executive actions with the decisions of the health teams. The ministry of health, CSS, scientists, the directors of different institutions, and other organizations observe and analyze make a decision and pass it to the executive branch. We’re beginning a 24 hour quarantine obviously with some logical exceptions, health workers, public forces, food sellers and grocery stores, chinitos, banks. Daily movement is allowed but restricted based on the last number of cedula (he lays out details for this, there are charts you can refer to) for purchase of food, gas, medications. This is a 24 hours quarantine but there are VERY IMPORTANT exemptions, understand that this is a decision based in evidence provided by the health team. The health team needs to respond to this crisis with constantly having in mind “Why are we here” and have a lot of discipline, because this is a difficult situation. We need to take ALL decisions based on evidence. When we say you need to stay in your house, it’s important that you do so, maintain a meter and a half between yourself and other people. When there’s someone infected, it’s not just an isolation process, it’s also a treatment process, we need to keep in mind what the enemy is. When we see someone suffering, when we see someone fall in the streets, it’s a real heartache, I give to everyone affected by this virus my condolences. I can’t give you a hug because right now that’s prohibited. We need to keep pushing and fighting, I’m sure we’re going to win this thing.

Wash your hands using the water responsibly. It’s important that we conserve water. Conserve water brushing your teeth or flushing the toilet, make sure it doesn’t run. Every gallon of water that we save is important. We’re on top of the financial situation, making tests, and treatment. We have the resources to keep advancing as we need to for months. For sure, our resources are not infinite. We don’t have a central bank. We have to be efficient, and organized in the following months and use our resources well. We have to be very conscious of using our resources effectively.

We assure to the country we’re going to maintain all of the transfer programs, $1.6B in CSS transfers, gas subsidies, electricity, welfare, scholarships and many other subsidies and benefits – we’re going to guarantee EVERYTHING but please utilize these things on what is necessary – food and medicine – forget about everything else – worry about the basics. We’re not gonna leave anybody behind who is losing their income, but we ALL have to share the burden. This is the moment of solidarity – there is no other. Nobody who has lost their income on account of the virus is going to lose their home due to mortgage default. The banks are flexible, believe me, I’ve talked to the banking authorities and they are going to be flexible. Rest assured if you’re without income for three months you won’t need to pay your mortgage. Nobody is going to take away your house because you can’t work. For those of you who fall in the range of standard usage the electric bill will be lowered by around 50%. Nobody is going to lose electricity because they aren’t working. 300-1000 KW usage will be discounted by 30%. In any case you have three months of grace where your electricity will not be cut. Nobody is going to cut the water service in the next three months. But use it responsibly. Nobody is going to cut the internet service in the next three months. This relief plan is a fight for survival against a mortal enemy. Relief is for food, medications, and gas. We’re testing a system to use the cedula like a debit card. We’ve been testing it for a week and we need to study it more but it seems like it’s working. The relief plan is for families, people that live day to day, people who have lost their wages, vulnerable populations.

panama flagAll of the logistic aren’t simple. We’re advancing and we’re doing tests. We’re going to be watching house by house, working with local authorities, to implement this process. Remember we’re in war time. We have to have solidarity. Don’t ask for things that someone else needs more. If you have plantains, or chickens, or eggs, and you have a neighbor in trouble, offer them some. Demonstrate the solidarity and the greatness of the country. Remember that the relief plan for the country is a plan of survival. We have a bank account in Banco Nacional for receiving donations to augment the national response. Our resources are very finite and every bit of help is needed. We need that each and every person shows solidarity. This virus kills solidarity, unity, discipline, order, and faith. If we unite, we’re going to defeat this virus and live a more beautiful life. We have to have patience. In a situation like this patience is very important. Resistance, the good administration of food, plains, rice, beans, it’s essential we administer everything well in this fight for survival.

This is the time to pray. If you don’t pray to above you won’t be blessed. Give thanks to God. Today I received videos of solidarity for example from restaurant owners, disco tech owners, bar owners, a beautiful but different type of video giving us joy and strength, that said let’s move forward, uniting forces. Someone from the police arrived and he said “We leave for the streets in the hand of god.” There are many units in the police that are testing positive, but when I read these messages from the police, sinaproc, the public forces, saying we’re going to the streets united, wrapped in the hands of God, we’re going to defeat our enemy. We have to give thanks to God for the people on the front line. I have to be in meetings and I have to be answer answering people till 1 in the morning, but we have to give thanks to the doctors, the nurses, technicians, administrators, the laundry workers, the people cooking and cleaning, all these health workers, damn. We have such an extraordinary team in this country. To the public forces and functionaries that have to be on the front line in this 24 hours quarantine. To those operating the metro and busses, those in the fields and the sea producing food, thank you. Those in the public forces, those producing food, the chinos, the supers, the means of conversation, to this spirit that grows in adversity, for this warrior attitude, the only thing I can say is I, Nito Cortizo, with the loudest cry, thank you.

All of us Panamanians need to keep uniting forces. We’re fighting against the current. We all have to advance in the same direction, have solidarity, in the hand of God, us the world and Panama, are going to overcome this enemy, the coronavirus.

Thank you for allowing me to speak to you – to all who are listening, I love this country. To all of you who are listening, love this country. Take out your Panamanian flag, no matter how old it is, take out your warrior flag. We’re gonna keep moving forward, like we’re doing, doing well. To the health team and the Panamanians in the front line, all we can say is take care of yourself, but please, care for us, too. Let’s keep advancing. May God bless this great country. Thank you.”

 

 

 

Jackie Lange

Jackie Lange is the founder of Panama Relocation Tours and lives in the highlands of Boquete Panama. She has helped thousands of people relocate to Panama.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Chuck Klappa says

    Thank you for sharing such a moving speech. It’s quite inspirational calling for unity and to take pride in hanging your flag. We truly hope this virus subsides soon & life returns to normal in the near future. We’ll see you when operations resume but for now, please stay safe & stay healthy. God Bless.

    • Jackie Lange says

      Chuck,

      It was a very good speech and has helped to ease the fears and concerns of everyone in Panama. The daily communications helps too. I feel blessed to be living in Panama during the pandemic.

  2. Dave Leschnik says

    My wife and I plan to retire later this year. Together doing our research of Panama. Plan to take the relocation tour in 2021.
    Reading what Panama is doing to fight this virus, leaves us feeling a real sense of security. To read the speech from the President of Panama, makes us realize even more what a special place Panama is. The people of Panama are lucky to have a leader of this caliber.
    As my wife says, many hands make light work. The people of Panama all working and sharing together will defeat this enemy. We are looking forward to being part of the great nation of Panama.

    Godspeed to Panama,

    Dave

    • Jackie Lange says

      Dave,,

      Yes, indeed, Panama is a special place. I am glad that I am living in Panama during this pandemic.

  3. Gary McIlroy & Monica Dewey says

    Thanks Jackie! It is reassuring that Panama is handling the pandemic so well and that most of the country seems to be coping. As future Panama Relocation Tour travelers (Nov. 20-27, 2020) and probable (?) future residents of Panama, we welcome any and all news from you. Here in the larger and less coordinated fifty states, as you probably well know, we are not all on the same page yet. It was only yesterday (yesterday!) that Georgia’s governor mandated a statewide stay-at-home order claiming that he had just learned that asymptomatic COVID-19 carriers could pass on the virus! A game-changer, he called it.

    Luckily where we live, Ann Arbor, MI, most people seem to be going out of their way to maintain “social distancing.” At any rate, we are slowing shedding many unwanted or unnecessary household items with the idea that should we make the move to Panama in the next year or two, we will not be encumbered with the nightmare of having to do everything at once.

    Warmer weather and sunshine will make the next couple months more than bearable for us. Enjoy the rain!

    Gary and Monica

    • Jackie Lange says

      HI Gary and Monica

      I’m glad that people in Ann Arbor are practicing social distancing. Hopefully the rest of the world will catch on to this simple practice soon.

      I moved to Panama with 2 suitcases and a cat. I did not ship anything to Panama. It was the most liberating thing I’ve ever done!

      Jackie

  4. Rosemary says

    Jackie,
    So if all tours are sold out until March of 2021 how are you getting into Panama? Are your tours given a special pass?

    • Jackie Lange says

      HI Rosemary

      Even though our tours are sold out through February 2021, we are currently not able to offer tours in Panama because the borders are closed. No flights can come in our go out of Panama.

      We anticipate that we will be able to do tours again soon. We have had to cancel some tours because of the Covid-19 virus. Most of those people switched to a different tour later in the year when we hope the borders will be open again.

  5. Rosemary says

    Thank you!

  6. Gary McIlroy says

    Yes, it is strangely liberating to part with objects or furniture no longer serving a useful or necessary function in one’s life, esp. If one can make a little money from them! We’ll see how easy it is when we start cutting closer to the bone.

    Best,

    Gary

  7. Clarissa Stewart says

    Thank you so much , Jackie
    For sending out the letter from the President of Panama.
    It was so personal, so touching.
    My heart is swelling with an unfamiliar feeling — of national pride,
    for this inspiring small country that I hope to make my make my own
    in the near future .

    All the best and thank you again,
    Clarissa

  8. Miguel A Castrellon says

    To all who have embraced or are thinking about embracing “the small country but with a big heart: Panama “. I’m panamenian by birth but moved to USA during my teen years. I’ve served in the US Army and now I’m moving goods to keep the country going. I took it as a new mission to help out any way I could during this trying times , to combat this virus till the end of it. I may not ever get to meet any of you, but I hope that your life in Panama will be a joyfull and fulfilled one. I too plan to move to Panama. For me would be a return to home, but that time may take a while for me. I hope and pray that y’all find what you are looking for. Welcome to Panama when the time comes for each one of you!
    Sincerely,
    Miguel Angel Castrellon

    • Jackie Lange says

      Miguel

      Thanks for your kind comments about Panama. Panama is the answer!

  9. David Windahl says

    Hi Jackie, We’re very happy to hear that you are recovering from your serious case of Covid 19. That says a lot about the high quality of medical care available in Panama. Your open description of your battle with Covid is very much appreciated.

    One very important piece of medical/health information that has not been addressed in the Online Panama Relocation guide is the availability of approved vaccinations in various parts of Panama. I understand that vaccinations have been more available in Panama City than in Chiriqui Province where vaccinations have just become available in the latter part of May.
    Muchos saludos y que sigas mejorando!

    David and Jill Windahl

    • Jackie Lange says

      covid vaccines are available in Panama.
      The Pfizer vaccine is used by appointment in certain age groups (like 60+) or those which chronic illnesses. You have to register online to get that vaccine. They send an email when your appointment is

      The AstraZenica vaccine is available to anyone over the age of 30. There are drive up locations for this vaccine throughout Panama.

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