Panama lifts mask mandate outdoors

The Ministry of Health (Minsa) has confirmed that starting Monday, March 28, 2022, you will not need to wear a mask outside in Panama.

Minsa made the announcement Friday, March 25, but stressed that the use of masks is only lifted in open spaces and masks will still be required in all closed spaces including inside the classroom. 

Ivette Berrío of Minsa explained in a press conference that the new sanitary measures were agreed upon by the Minsa technical team, the Consultative Council, and approved by President Laurentino Cortizo.

Masks will still be required in open spaces where a meter distance between people cannot be maintained, such as crowds or lines to enter activities and concerts. 

This is great news for coastal communities in Panama! Disposable masks are one of the most common items found littering our beaches and communities. 

Scientists have uncovered potentially dangerous chemical pollutants can be released from disposable face masks when submerged in water. Research has revealed high levels of pollutants, including lead, antimony, and copper, within the silicon-based and plastic fibers of the common disposable face. 

help the environment with your mask choice

1 - Cut the strings. If you choose to use disposable masks and are going to throw them in the trash, make sure you cut the strings animals often get entangled in mask stings. 

2 - Make a bottle of love. Instead of tossing your used disposable mask in the trash, you can make something that’s called a bottle of love in Panama, which is essentially a plastic bottle filled with soft plastics that cannot be recycled otherwise. Google eco-brick and see what you find! 

3 - Switch to a cloth mask. A good cloth mask can be more effective than a poorly fit disposable one. The WHO recommends the following when using a cloth mask: 

Before touching the mask, clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.

Inspect the mask for tears or holes, do not use a mask that is damaged.

Adjust the mask to cover your mouth, nose, and chin, leaving no gaps on the sides.

Place the straps behind your head or ears. Do not cross the straps because this can cause gaps on the side of your face.

Avoid touching the mask while wearing it. If you touch it, clean your hands.

Change your mask if it gets dirty or wet.

How to take off and store a fabric mask:

Clean your hands before taking off the mask.

Take off the mask by removing it from the ear loops, without touching the front of the mask.

If your fabric mask is not dirty or wet and you plan to reuse it, put it in a clear resealable bag. If you need to use it again, hold the mask at the elastic loops when removing it from the bag. Clean your mask once a day.

Clean your hands after removing the mask.

Source: G.L. Sullivan, J. Delgado-Gallardo, T.M. Watson, S. Sarp. An investigation into the leaching of micro and nano particles and chemical pollutants from disposable face masks - linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. Water Research, 2021; 196: 117033 DOI: 10.1016/j.watres.2021.117033