COVID-19 in Panama

August marks the fourth month of quarantine in Panama (Panama City and Panama West). In the last 24 hours, Panama registered 1,665 new cases of coronavirus in Panama exceeding a total of 65,000.

July 31 2020, there are a total of 65,256 cases of coronavirus in Panama of which 39,166 have recuperated and 1421 people have died, a fatality rate of 2.2%. There are currently 24,669 active cases of Covid-19 in Panama. 222,990 total tests, 3048 new (34% positive rate) (Ministry of Health).

Here are some events leading up to the current coronavirus situation in Panama: 

April 1 2020, Panama announced a curfew based on sex which allowed men to leave their homes on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and women, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Circulation based on the last number of a person’s cedula or passport, was limited to one hour (with a 30min grace period on each side), and only to access essential services. In the days preceding the lockdown Panama had reported 1,200 total cases with 30 deaths (BBC, how Panama became the country in Latin America with the most new cases of covid-19 by number of inhabitants). Regulating a curfew based on sex to reinforce quarantine was questioned, as it left people who do not identify with their birth sex in a grey area, however it was seen as the best method to facilitate and enforce the law.

Data has shown separating the outputs of men and women, along with a list of other restrictions including sanitary checkpoints kept the number of new daily infections in Panama low in the first month. However, total lockdown in Panama was not without issues, some oversights made it hard for everyone to comply with the law. For example, access to some essential services for anyone with an IDs ending in the number 6 (7pm) was essentially denied due to limited hours of some services. Furthermore, Minsa reported pets could be removed from the perimeter of their home, but only during the authorized times, so dogs owners who were single, or the same sex, were left in a tough spot. 

May 13th 2020, Panama entered phase 1 of reopening.  It wasn’t until the weeks following Panama’s first step towards reopening, when quarantine restrictions were eased, that Covid-19 cases in Panama increased significantly. New cases reached 800 daily by mid June, when Minsa spoke to the increase in cases as something that was expected as part of the reopening, but not expected at such a rate (BBC)

Quarantine was quickly reinstated in Panama and Panama West, 3 days a week for women, and 3 day a week for men (Saturday is now also a day of total lockdown leaving men only two days).

May 20th 2020, about an eighth of the total population has been granted permission to circulate. According to the Ministry of Commerce and Industries as of May 20th 514,470 Salvoconductos had been approved (MICI). We have not been able to find a current total. The Salvoconducto’s main aim was to grant vital workers like doctors and food providers to circulate outside of curfew hours. Its secondary aim in block 1 was to revive the economy by slowly allowing people to work again. The automated process of applying for one is easy, and not without its downfalls. In early May MICI opened an investigation of a technology company that had allegedly marketed Salvoconductos for $80. In some cases companies registered employees who did not need to be on the street or people who did not work for their company. On July 27th, Metro Libre reported that around 4000 salvoconductos were removed from the system for misuse in a single weekend.