Panama re-imposes Covid-19 restrictions as new infections overwhelm the health care system
The government of Panama announced a series of health restrictions in response to a deadly surge in Covid-19 cases. The country’s health ministry blames the new cases on “careless personal behavior” and says the new measures are required to stem the spread of the virus. Many of the restrictions were suspended in October.
“Our health system has reached a critical point and is receiving more patients than it can accommodate,” says Minister of Health Yelkis Gill. “We are adding more beds and equipment as fast as we can but fear this may not be enough. We must re-impose restrictions on personal movement and activity around the country.”
Gill said that Panama, a country of 4.3 million, currently has the second highest rate of Covid infection per capita in the Western Hemisphere.
Among the actions ordered by the central government is an extension of curfews, a nightly “dry law” on alcoholic beverage sales and stay-at-home rules for Christmas and New Year’s. Beaches, spas and gyms were also ordered closed. In addition, some areas showing high rates of new infections have been ordered to lock down entirely, with household members only allowed out to buy groceries and drugs.
One rule re-imposed from earlier in the year is the “mobility by gender” restriction under which men and women are only allowed to shop on alternate days.
Gill said that the relaxation of rules in October, following months of restrictions, is the primary cause in new cases. “We relaxed too much with many people believing they could return to life as it had been before the pandemic. We became careless and forgot social distancing and masking rules that remained in place.”
He added: “It is our hope that these new restrictions will be short-lived but they must remain in place until we overcome the wave of new infections.”