Coronavirus Arrives in Panama

Tocumen airport in Panama City is a very busy international hub with flights from all over the world. Many Panamanians have the means and reasons to travel, and many places in Panama are popular tourist destinations. We figured it was only a matter of time before the virus came to Panama, in spite of their best efforts to keep it out.

The first news was of a Panamanian woman who came back from Spain feeling ill. She tested positive for the virus and was put under quarantine at home.

Then, yesterday, worse news came out. The director of a high school in Panama City became ill with the virus and died. He was diabetic and died from virus associated pneumonia. Two more people are in intensive care at the moment, both teachers from the same high school.

This is the best article I’ve found so far, but an internet search will bring up more. Rather than report the information it contains, I’ll just run it through google translate and repost the rather lengthy article at the bottom of this post.

For us, we remain home under quarantine for 3 more days, and we continue to get daily phone calls from the health department in both Panama City and David. We are fine and word is everyone in our tour group is fine, but I don’t mind the precautions. I’d feel terrible if we brought the virus into the country, spread it around, and then it killed people.

In the country though, there are a lot of changes. Concerts, fair, sports events, and anything that draws crowds have been cancelled. There is a huge international fair this month in David, and this is going to affect the livelihood of many, many vendors. But I understand why Panama is immediately taking strong measures to hopefully stop the spread of the virus.

Anyway…. the article…..

Eight confirmed cases and, of these, a deceased person, is the new balance of infections of the new coronaviruss in the country, confirmed last night at a press conference by the Minister of Health, Rosario Turner. Although she did not specify her name, the minister confirmed that the deceased was the director of the Monsignor Francisco Beckman College, Norato González.

Turner explained – without saying the patient’s name – that Gonzalez, suffering from diabetes, had been affected by bacterial pneumonia that was later associated with Covid-19. He died on March 8, the same day that the 40-year-old Panamanian reported to the country from Spain arrived as the first confirmed case.

Of the other six sick people, two are in intensive care. These are teachers from Beckman School. The rest of the patients remain in their homes, in stable condition.
In total, the authorities keep 66 people under surveillance, all linked to the eight confirmed cases. In this context, the Ministry of Health ordered to suspend, from today and until April 7, classes in public and private schools in northern and central Panama, and in San Miguelito. Today there is a meeting with the rectors of the universities.
He also ordered the suspension of fairs, horseback riding, concerts, sports activities and any other event that involves the agglomeration of people. Minister Turner explained that the Gorgas Memorial Institute has reagents to practice up to 1,500 tests on people suspected of being infected and instructions have already been issued to acquire another batch of reagents. The director of the Social Security Fund, Enrique Lau, said he has at least 150 fans to treat patients who require assisted breathing because of the virus.
In this scenario, nervous purchases were recorded yesterday in stores in the capital, which is why the authorities made a new call for calm and sanity.

The Ministry of Health (Minsa) confirmed yesterday the first death by the new coronavirus. This is Norato González, director of the Monsignor Francisco Beckman school, located in the county of Las Cumbres, in northern Panama, Last Monday, the authorities had reported that Professor González presented a clinical picture of bacterial pneumonia that was complicated, but yesterday the story changed. The Minister of Health, Rosario Turner, confirmed in a press conference that, so far, eight cases have been positive for laboratory tests performed by the new coronavirus, including the deceased person and two teachers of the educational center in question. Turner explained that they have 66 people under epidemiological observation, which includes the whole family nucleus of confirmed cases.

Given this scenario, the Minister of Health reported the suspension of classes for public and private schools in the sectors of northern Panama, central Panama and the district of San Miguelito, until next April 7. He also said that the Cabinet Council decided to suspend events that involve agglomeration of people, such as fairs, horseback riding, concerts and sports activities. He asked the population to remain calm, since 70% of people suffer from the disease mildly, 25% moderately and only 5% reach a critical situation. In that regard, the World Health Organization said last Monday that, of the more than 80 thousand cases confirmed by the new coronavirus in China, 70% have recovered and released.

Regarding the case of the 40-year-old Panamanian from Barajas Airport, Spain, the authorities reported that they monitor eight direct contacts of the Iberia flight and two people from their residence. The patient recovers at home.
The second case corresponds to a 55-year-old Panamanian, who was in France, Madrid, United States and Cuba; 42 people who had contact with him are under follow-up.
Case three is a 29-year-old Panamanian who traveled to Colorado, the United States, and Cuba, and had direct contact with a person.
The fourth report corresponds to another 45-year-old Panamanian from Spain and has had contact with four people.
Meanwhile, case number five is a 49-year-old Panamanian with no travel history, but maintained contact with 17 people. It is a case similar to that of the deceased professor, who also had no travel history outside the country.
The Minsa also explained that patient number six is ​​a 59-year-old Panamanian who traveled to Puerto Rico and New York.
And the seventh case is a 35-year-old Panamanian who traveled to the United States.
In the last two cases, all persons who had contact with travelers are investigated.

The infectologist and member of the Advisory Committee for Coronavirus del Minsa, Xavier Saéz-Llorens, described in his Twitter account as mitigated means of mitigation by the Minsa, and that all were discussed with advisers and technicians. He said that the measures will be taken in a staggered way and possibly hardened, depending on the behavior of the outbreak.

CSS measurement
Earlier, the Social Security Fund (CSS) decided to suspend until further notice elective surgeries in the main centers of the capital city, specifically in the Dr. Arnulfo Arias Madrid Hospital Complex, Dr. Susana Jones Cano Hospital and Irma Hospital from Lourdes Tzanetatos. This was reported by the director of the CSS, Enrique Lau Cortés, who explained that the measure was adopted to prevent the spread of Covid-19 disease.

Lau Cortés said they are prepared to face the cases of the new coronavirus, and that they have 150 artificial ventilators for patients who at one time may require them.
Javier Nieto Guevara, an infectologist and member of the Advisory Committee for Coronavirus del Minsa, said that the decision of the Social Security Fund authorities is correct and a rational way to keep health facilities clear and available for potential contingencies. He noted that measures as they are are discussed by the Committee and based on the technical opinion of all its members. For his part, the leader of the National Negotiating Medical Commission (Comenenal), Julio Osorio, described the measure as correct, especially for the rate at which the disease is spreading. In that sense, Osorio cited as an example the situation in Italy, where the number of cases amounts to more than 9 thousand and the deaths already add up to 463. The disease has spread rapidly, in two weeks. Therefore, it is better to use all resources to contain the disease and not put the insured population of the country at risk, he said.

Cruises, in the spotlight
In addition, health personnel intensified yesterday the inspections of cruise passengers who were anchored in the port of the Amador Causeway, in the Ancón district.
Health officials screened all passengers, who could not disembark until they were checked one by one. The boarding took place on the high seas, and then the passengers were taken to the marina and transported on tourist buses to continue with their tourist plans. The director of Planning of the Minsa, Israel Cedeño, explained that evaluation is always carried out on people who move in all types of boats, but when there are new “events” the search for patients with the symptomatology of the disease intensifies, and Health staff increases. He explained that these verifications have been carried out with other viruses, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), middle east repiratory syndrome (MERS), H1N1 and Ebola.


About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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2 Responses to Coronavirus Arrives in Panama

  1. catfriend99 says:

    Just be glad you didn’t come to Seattle.


  2. Yeah, I know. Staying home was the only sensible choice.


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