In the News from Panama

Traveler: Take a Lesson on COVID from Panama

A business traveler from central California was so appreciative of her recent trip to Panama, she had to share her story with the local paper. And it’s such a great story illustrating what it is like to travel to Panama right now, we wanted to share it, too. 

Margaret Potter of Santa Maria, California, wrote her local paper, the Santa Maria Times, to explain what she went through when she decided to fly to Panama. First off, she knew Panama had imposed tight restrictions on anyone flying into the country. She knew she would need a negative COVID test within 48 hours to enter the country.

She was flying out of Los Angeles, but couldn’t find a site to do a rapid result test without a doctor’s referral, an appointment, $150, and/or a declaration that she had been exposed to COVID, which she hadn’t.

But Potter had done her homework. “I knew I could get tested upon arrival at Tocumen Airport in Panama for $50,” she wrote. “No appointment. No doctor referral. No stated pre-exposure necessary.”

Copa Airlines also required her to fill out a contact tracing form in the event that someone on the flight tested positive. When she arrived, she found personnel ready to receive her at the airport.

“Arriving at Tocumen International, there were signs clearly pointing to one of the four COVID testing centers at the airport,” she wrote. “I went to one, filled out minimal paperwork, got tested, and waited for the results. Fifteen minutes total.”

Once in Panama City, Potter was also impressed by what she saw. “In Panama City, every shop, restaurant, bank, office, dollar store, McDonald’s, establishment of any kind, has a sanitizing foot pad, a person who takes your temperature before you enter, and an automatic hand sanitizer dispenser,” she wrote. “Masks are worn all the time unless eating or drinking. In public, people are careful to be socially distant, to not get into elevators with others, to stay 6 feet apart on the metro, escalators, or in businesses.”

From a Panama City perspective, it’s great to see a visitor recognizing all the work that is going in to make Panama City safe. But Margaret did want to make a point with her letter. “Did I mention that Panama is also considered a third world country?” she notes. “Why do we, allegedly the greatest country in the world, find these practical, simple, and life-saving measures so difficult?”

You can find the letter here.