This holiday season is definitely not the same. This pandemic is affecting the entire world. It’s a very difficult year for everyone, especially in places where hospitals are overflowing and people are dying at alarming rates. People who usually spend holidays together are separated, or they get together anyway and risk spreading the virus. The vaccines are arriving, but it’s going to take a while before enough people are immunized to turn this pandemic around.
Panama has not escaped the problems of the pandemic. They opened most of the economy and got people back to work. Then there were all the holidays in November, and Mother’s Day in early December. Now we are paying for all that with the highest ever numbers of people infected, hospitalized, and dead. The virus is just too contagious and when people travel and gather, it gets spread around.
Here in Panama, there will be no gathering or traveling this holiday season. There is a curfew 7pm-5am and traveling around the country is restricted. Women are allowed to shop on Monday and Wednesday, and men on Tuesday and Thursday. Then Friday, Saturday, and Sunday everyone is home and everything is shut down except essential services. Next week will be the same.
After that, who knows? But hopefully this will make a difference. They have been super diligent with testing and contact tracing, and people generally are very cooperative with masks, social distancing, and infection control measures. But, obviously, this hasn’t been enough. The daily number of new infections is alarmingly high, and number of people in the hospitals has also been rising to critical levels. They have made new spaces for more hospital beds but of course they need personnel to care for these patients, and that is a challenge.
This year, families and friends who usually spend the holidays together are separated. Those who have internet are keeping in touch on line, but it will be especially hard for those who don’t have as much technology.
It is very encouraging to see the vaccines arriving. Here in Panama, all we know for sure is “the first quarter of 2021”, but most rumors say February. It will be so wonderful, here and around the world, to see this situation turning around. Right now though, we’re still in this pandemic reality and we will be for at least a few more months. We’ve come this far though and we can do it a little while longer.
Holidays next year will be different!! We will have to celebrate even more to make up for this year, and we will have new appreciation for the time together that we usually took for granted. We’ll also have more appreciation for the people we have, especially now that so many will be mourning people we have lost. Tough times everywhere and we’re all so tired of it all.
Someday we will be looking back and remembering this crazy time. Meanwhile though I also see good things, and people going out of their way to be caring and thoughtful with each other. This is definitely needed now more than ever. Hang in there and keep up the good work. Take care of yourselves and each other.