Waiting in Lines

Things here in Panama continue to shut down more and more as the virus progresses. Last night the news said there are 345 cases in Panama, 6 deaths, 8 cases in Chiriquí (our province) 2 in the town just up the road from us, and one in Boquete, the expat center where our band plays. One death was a 13 year old girl.

The curfew has been expanded to 5pm-5am, and there is talk of tightening it down a lot more. If so, you will be allowed out for a hour a day, the hour to be determined by the last number on your ID. All buses in David have been suspended, and there are no buses traveling around the country either. There are numerous checkpoints around the country also to keep people from traveling out of their areas, and especially to keep people from traveling out of Panama City which has the majority of the cases, and all the deaths. I have heard about a few humanitarian flights out of the country but in general, all planes are grounded.

Yesterday there was news that they were washing and disinfecting the streets in downtown David. Today there is news that they are disinfecting all vehicles going into Volcan and the highlands. The majority of the produce for the country is grown there so it’s critical to keep that area safe and those farmers on the job.

Everyone is being urged to stay home by everyone in authority and every media outlet or risk heavy fines and possible criminal charges, especially if you are under quarantine orders. Unfortunately, like everywhere, not everyone is in compliance and they have even found infected, quarantined people out and about, which is totally not cool. Thus, the talk of major restrictions.

We went grocery shopping yesterday and saw first hand the measures being taken. Stores are closed and padlocked except for essential stores – supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations, banks, etc. Social distancing is required at all times.

We arrived at the shopping area to find that DoIt Center, the hardware store was open but quieter than usual. There was a pump bottle of hand sanitizer for everyone’s use just inside the door, and lines on the floor to separate people at checkout. Arrocha (pharmacy and general almost everything store) was also open but it was almost empty.

I had plenty of time to visit other stores while we waited in the supermarket (El Rey) line. The line didn’t seem that huge but it took forever – 2 1/2 hours for us, and the line was twice as long by the time we got close to the supermarket door. People were observing social distancing, some had masks, and a few had gloves. I saw a couple policemen making the rounds, and there was a cleaning person mopping the floor and wiping down all surfaces.

I wasn’t sure what was going on in the supermarket. When one shopper came out, they would let another in (only one per family or group) but people came out who hadn’t been very far in front of us in line. When we finally got to the front of the line, they let in 20 people at once. There were NO shoppers at all in the store when our group came in. There seemed to be the usual number of check out people and bag boys, though of course they were all hanging around with nothing to do at the time. But, the store was very well stocked. I got everything on my list which is unusual. Everything! Much better than I expected.

We also bought gas for the kitchen (we use gas cans, kind of like for a BBQ and when one runs empty, you go to the store and exchange it for a full one. $5.12, lasts about a month). We stopped at the convenience store on our way out and their delivery hadn’t come in yet, but we took so long shopping that by the time we came back we were able to exchange our gas can. Now we are STOCKED UP! The freezer is full, the kitchen is full, we have gas for both the kitchen and the cars (not that we are going anywhere), and some cash on hand just in case. We probably don’t need to leave the house for a month, probably two.

Leaving the house now feels like leaving a “safe zone”. Cases of the virus are increasing every day, and in our province as well. There was one in Chiriqui, then three, and yesterday the count was up to eight, including two in the town right up the road, and another in Boquete where our band plays. If there are active cases identified you know there are more out there that nobody knows about yet. I don’t want to get sick or much worse, become one of the carriers who is spreading the virus around.

I continue to be very happy with Panama’s management of this epidemic. Word is that they have bought millions of doses of antiviral drugs that have been found to be helpful against this virus. Shipments of test kits, masks, ventilators, and other supplies that were ordered continue to arrive.  They continue to track every case and quarantine everyone who may have been exposed and they have a 5 tier plan of action which covers identification, testing, monitoring, in home visits, health teams in clinics, hospital and ICU beds, and more beds for recovering people who aren’t well enough to go home. Of course there are rumors and confusion but in general, I feel like the leadership has been really leading and making sensible decisions, even though they are difficult. When it’s a choice between the economy or lives, they are going for saving lives all the way. There will be economic help coming as soon as possible but right now, lets keep people alive.

So, life in a crazy situation. I feel like this is the best possible place I could be. I wish you all well! Please stay home, stay safe, and stay healthy.

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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11 Responses to Waiting in Lines

  1. Eliza Ayres says:

    Reblogged this on Blue Dragon Journal.


  2. Rick Shultz says:

    Kris, I can’t thank you enough for your excellent descriptions, encouragement, and guidance about what’s going on here in Panama and how our leaders seem to be staying ahead of this awful pandemic we all are facing. Your blog has always been wonderfully positive and helpful even during the most bland and normal times, but now you’re superbly outdoing yourself. Thank you so much! Please keep up the good work. And know that it’s very much appreciated. We owe you a debt of gratitude for keeping us so up to date and informed. Please stay well. Hopefully, all this will be over soon.


    • Wow, thank you! I’m glad you find the blog so helpful. It’s a way for me to get some of it out and record it for later, but I’m happy to hear it also is useful to others. I really do think we are in the best possible place for this epidemic and they are really doing all they can to keep us safe while still meeting the basic needs of the people.


  3. mari edgi says:

    Hola amiga,

    I have been reading, and enjoying your blogs, but each time I try to “like” it or comment through WordPress it kicks me off. It’s not your site, I’ve had the same issue with other WordPress blogs. Guess I’m a problem child for the WordPress gremlins ;-]

    At any rate, glad you and Joel made it back without any COVID issues. We were to be on our 20th anniversary cruise right now. Perhaps we can be at the top of the Eiffel Tower on our 21st! ;-]

    I agree about the safe zone, we certainly feel safer up here in our apartment than out and about with others. And to think if we were still working as RNs we’d be required to care……. well actually I don’t like to think what the US is in for. Just hopeful our loved ones can remain healthy. The current administration has no clue what is coming their way.

    Hola to Joel.

    Abrazos, Mariah



    • It sounds like they are doing the right things to keep you all safe down there too, thank goodness! I am very thankful we aren’t in the US, and if we were, do you think we should/could come out of retirement? I can face the thought in good times, and certainly not now but they are going to be in a terrible state very soon. I guess we know too much and can see it coming from miles away.
      Congrats on the 20th! That’s certainly worth celebrating next year too, or whenever all this dies down, or every year for many to come!
      As for WordPress, I dunno. If it doesn’t like you heck with it. We like you!!


  4. Anonymous says:

    Be safe…sounds like Panama’s government is doing it right. Up here in the States, trump is NOT helping.


    • Please please please be very careful! I am very concerned for all of you in the US. I don’t think your administration and your officials are on top of things at all, and there is going to be a heavy price to pay.


  5. oldsalt1942 says:

    I completely understand the “Safe Zone” feeling. It’s like that when you live anchored on a boat. I’m really not comfortable going ashore to shop. It’s one thing to paddle to the boat ramp and get a bag of ice at the kiosk 50 yards away, and another to go to Publix supermarket. I went to Publix yesterday and they have an employee at the entrance wiping down every cart that comes through door with disinfectant. I’ve been out once each of the last two days. This should be the busiest time of the year here on Anna Maria Island but most of the place is locked up tight. Riding the trolley (a total of four times…2 round trips) there have never been more than 5 riders at a time. Today you had to enter the rear door. forward of that is one seat either side of the aisle. from those seats forward to the driver is cordoned off. But I have food, water, and junk food, so there’s no need to get around people for at least the next week if not more time than that.


    • I worry about you. You would not be a good candidate for this illness. I’m glad to hear the buses are almost empty and they are doing well at Publix. But, you are smart and sensible and have survived a lot, so expect to be entertained by your postings and jokes for a long time to come!


  6. Kookie says:

    I’ve been following your post for a while now and also I was using them as a guide and * how to and what to do*when moving to Panama, I never considered to move there even though I was born in the Canal zone to a Panamanian father and a Brazilian mother, even though I have a house in La Victoria de Boqueron Close to Rio Piedra or Rio Chico, ” 🤔seems to mea lot of things in Panama have two names including my grandmother, lol, 🤣
    Until this past November I decided to go there for 6 months and return to Tampa, sort of like snow birds do, but now I’m not sure when exactly I will be able to return, I had a ticket to go back in May but that’s not going to happen,
    Is it me Panama is handling things much better than Us? It really looks like the local government is lagging behind of this crisis. I work at a dialysis provider a d in my clinic the supplies are scarce and this company doesn’t even enforce the face mask rules between patients and staff. They are much more worried about their bonuses.
    Sorry for the rant about all this but I hope to go back soon and keep working on my home there and make it my new home away from home.
    Take care be safe.



    • Yes, I think Panama is handling things much better than the US, which I am adding to the long list of why I’m happy to be here. Everyone I know in health care in the US says supplies are scarce, and in general people aren’t taking the threat seriously enough. I hope you can stay safe and healthy! I also hope you can come here when this is all over and enjoy the good things Panama has to offer.


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