Severity: Critical Alert

Exit/Entry: Panama to lift additional COVID-19 business restrictions nationwide from Sept. 7. Most other restrictions remain unchanged.

Alert Begins 04 Sep 2020 12:27 PM UTC
Alert Expires 14 Sep 2020 11:59 PM UTC

  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Transport and commercial disruptions, increased security

Authorities in Panama announced plans to further ease business restrictions related to the nation's response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic from Sept. 7, while maintaining existing nationwide curfew measures. In addition to previously approved commercial activity, beginning Sept. 7, sectors and industries permitted to operate include construction and associated sectors, such as engineers, architects, project managers, contractors, and moving and hauling services. Panama's free trade zones will also reopen, including the Panama Pacific Special Economic Area and the Colon Free Trade Zone. Private marinas, sport fishing, tailor shops, dressmakers, shoe stores, and car washes may also reopen and resume.

All other business operations remain unchanged across all provinces since the government launched Phase 1 of its reopening plan May 13. These include personal care services (at 50-percent capacity), retail stores, some construction projects, care sales and repairs, NGO operations, mining of non-metals, industry, technical services, small scale fishing, real estate, wholesale trade, housing development, and property appraisals.

All businesses will still be required to comply with strict sanitation, hygiene, and social distancing protocols, including ensuring that staff and customers use protective face masks and maintain at least 2 meters (6.5 feet) between each other. Since July 20, officials have staggered the start times for operating hours; private-sector employees are required to enter their workplace by no later than 0800, while public-sector employees are required to enter by 0900. Religious sites, parks, social areas, and sporting areas will be allowed to operate at 25-percent capacity. Social, cultural, and festive group activities, as well as beach visits and contact sports, remain restricted.

National Curfew
Nationwide curfew measures will remain unchanged. A 1900-0500 curfew will be enforced daily, except in areas where tighter weekend curfews are in place. A 24-hour full weekend curfew has been imposed in Bocas del Toro, Colon, and Chiriqui provinces since July 25. Revised measures will also be enforced in Panama and Panama Oeste Provinces.

Panama and Panama Oeste Provinces
Officials are maintaining the 1900-0500 curfew Monday-Saturday. The weekend curfew will be enforced from 1900 Saturdays through 0500 Mondays, until further notice. Outside curfew hours, officials require residents to stay at home, except to procure authorized goods and services between 0500-1900, according to the gender noted on one's identification card. Women will be allowed to circulate on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; men will be allowed to circulate on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

International Travel Restrictions
Authorities earlier banned foreign nationals and nonresidents from entering the country and suspended all commercial passenger flights to and from Panama March 22 and domestic flights March 25. However, since Aug. 17, Panamanian nationals and residents will be permitted to return to the country on commercial flights. All arriving passengers must present a negative COVID-19 test taken within 48 hours and will be subject to a mandatory self-quarantine for 14 days. Cargo shipments and medical flights are exempt from the flight restrictions. All measures are subject to amendment at short notice.

Background and Analysis
The restrictions implemented by Panamanian authorities are similar to actions taken by other governments globally in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, which the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a pandemic March 11. Panama, like several other governments, has likely begun easing restrictions on businesses regionally due to the need to allow some economic recovery. Should the number of COVID-19 cases significantly increase, relaxed restrictions may be reapplied. Likewise, a continued low number of cases may result in further relaxation of restrictions. Authorities could impose highly targeted localized measures in some areas, as they have done in Panama and Panama Oeste provinces.

Follow all official instructions. Abide by national health and safety measures. Reconfirm all travel arrangements and business appointments. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

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