Panama’s President Laurentino Cortizo announced on Thursday, March 19, that all commercial international flights to and from the country will be suspended as of 23:59 (local time) on Sunday, March 22. The measure was put in place to prevent further spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country and will remain in effect for 30 days. Cargo, humanitarian, and domestic flights will operate as normal depending on the situation.
Other containment measures are also in place as of Thursday. A nationwide overnight curfew is in effect from 21:00 to 05:00. Authorities have also ordered all shops across the country to close except for supermarkets, pharmacies, and medical centers, while public gatherings of more than 50 people will be prohibited. Schools remain closed nationwide until April 7. Certain activities, such as sporting events, concerts, and fairs which bring together large crowds of people have also been suspended until April 7.
As of March 19, 137 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the country. Further international spread of the virus is expected over the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, and difficulty breathing, seek medical care urgently and share your previous travel history with your health care provider.