We just returned from a European tour. Of course, the first part of such a trip is to get over there.
We took a Copa flight in the morning to Tucomen (the Panama City international airport) and caught out flight to Frankfurt and then Paris in the afternoon.
Tucomen is a typical airport in most ways, but this was definitely a splash of local color, a very noisy band and dancer making their way around the airport.
Everything went according to plan on the trip over. It’s just looooong! 11 hours from Panama to Frankfurt, a few hours wait, then another 1 1/2 hours or so to Paris. And when you arrive, the time is 6 hours ahead of when you left so your body and head are all confused. We left on Wednesday afternoon, and by the time we arrived it was Thursday evening!
We went a lot of places on this trip – Paris, Zurich, not Milan (coronavirus shutdown!) Venice, Florence, and Rome so I have tons of photos to sort through and research. I’ll post them little by little as I get to it.
Speaking of coronavirus, we got super lucky that our trip happened in just the nick of time! The first we heard of problems was when we were in Paris, and word was that Milan and some nearby towns had been closed. We were scheduled to visit but instead, we went driving right on by and didn’t even stop at a bathroom. Nothing else was affected at that time and everywhere we went, it looked like business as usual.
Now though, just days later, there is much more concern about Italy as cases there and precautions increase. In Paris, the Louvre museum has been closed and according to the news, any gatherings over 5000 people are cancelled. If we had traveled even a week later, we would have been able to do less, we would have been much more worried about going anywhere, and worried about picking up the virus somewhere and bringing it home with us.
When we returned, Panama was very concerned about people arriving from Italy and China. We were all taken aside as soon as we arrived at the airport, and we were greeted/questioned by health care workers in gloves, gowns, masks, thermometers, and googles (on foreheads, but ready). They took all our info, names, passport numbers, local address, phone numbers, etc. and let us go on. Then, a surprise, when we landed in David the next morning, we were again taken aside along with the other couple who travelled with us. Again, info was written down, though this time the guy was just in ordinary clothes without gloves/gowns/masks etc.
Now we are getting daily calls from the health department to make sure we are showing no signs of illness. I questioned the nice lady today – she is calling from Panama City. If we show any signs of illness, they will find a doctor to come to our house. They don’t want us out and about and especially not if we might be infected. I’m a bit confused about staying home though, since our neighbors/travel companions said they specifically asked about that and were told they could be out if they are feeling fine. She is a teacher and went back to work on Monday. It’s not a problem for us. We’re still very jet lagged and tired and very happy to stay home, but I’ll have to verify and ask more questions because it doesn’t make sense to me.
But, we are feeling fine, and I think the chances we caught something are low. But we are definitely being careful though. With so much of the population here using public transportation and being generally very social, I can see the virus spreading like wildfire if it takes hold. I also see a serious lack of education about infection control (which is why I wrote that post on it recently). Wearing masks does NOT protect you, and wetting your fingers in the water is NOT adequate hand washing. People need to be educated on transmission, and how to prevent the virus from getting on your hands, and then to the face.
But, we can only do what we can in our small circle of influence. Now my next concern is visiting family in the USA. I’m supposed to leave for northern California in 2 weeks, and then spend more time in the Seattle area. Except for traveling I don’t expect to be out and about much and I’m not worried for me. But, what if I have trouble getting back in to Panama, or heaven forbid bring something with me?? The kids say life there seems normal, though the news says things quite different. *sigh*. I’m still on the fence.