Panama’s worst week since the start of the pandemic

The epidemiological week from December 20 to 26 was Panama’s worst week since the start of the Pandemic. It culminated with 19,140 new infections, 2031 people hospitalized, and 272 deaths.

While there was an increase across the board, 272 dead is the figure that stands out, it is an average of 39 deaths per day. The last time more than 200 deaths were reported in the country was from July 19 to 25 and it was 204. 

Arturo Rebollón, epidemiologist and public health specialist, said that he "does not believe that actions can be implemented quickly enough to avoid the wave of deaths that is expected after the holidays". In an article with La Prensa, "The Coronavirus shows it’s harshness to Panama"

He added that the monitoring of active cases of Covid-19 is complicated with 20 thousand people affected and that Panama does not have the staff required. 

Following the patriotic holidays, Panama saw a spike of 49% in the average number of daily cases. The province of Panama registers 114,567 cases,  while Panama West reaches 45,177, according to the latest epidemiological report on covid-19 in Panama issued this Sunday.

For this reason, the Ministry of Health (Minsa) has decided to impose the new quarantine measure in Panama and Panama West following the Holiday quarantine in effect until Jan 4th there will be continued quarantine in Panama and Panama West until Jan 14th, 2021.  

Read more about the upcoming Quarantine in Panama here. 

How will Panama combat covid-19 in 2021? 

Xavier Sáez-Llorens, infectious disease specialist and former member of the Covid-19 Advisory Committee, pointed out that right now we’re experiencing the worst moments of the pandemic and it is likely that it will get worse later this week or early January because deaths are always lagging behind with the number of infections.

He stressed that it is important, for transparent public information, that Minsa details characteristics of deaths (sex, age, comorbidity, an occurrence at home, street, hotel, hospital, ICU, treatment received), more now that the number of deaths in the country is considerable. "People are panicked by the number of deaths that are being reported every day, and one way to quell that panic is by characterizing the deaths," he said.

In addition, he opined that now, when the virus is practically out of control throughout the country, the only way to control the situation, even though it is the hardest, is with a consecutive quarantine of 14 or 21 days. He also pointed out that salvo conductos (paperwork that allows people to circulate) should be limited so that what happened at the beginning of the Pandemic does not happen again. 

While health professionals recognize that quarantine is a difficult decision the country is facing unemployment,  and people are exhausted from confinement; however, many see it as the only way to limit the spread of the virus until vaccines begin to arrive and have an impact on the population.