In the News from Panama

Panama Earns Praise for Virus Response

A top regional health official has singled out Panama as a model for rapid response to the COVID19 virus.

Panama “has always been one step ahead,” said Gerardo Alfaro, Panama’s representative of the Pan American Health Organization said in an interview with UN News.  

Panama responded quickly to the epidemic, allocated financial resources and “has managed to sequence the virus genome to quickly diagnose cases that appear in the country,” the article explains. Panama “has strengthened its health system and has taken measures to isolate citizens,” the writer adds.

There are important lessons to be learned from the Panama response, the article notes. For one, diagnostic tests are started very quickly, which “allowed us very early to confirm and rule out cases,” Alfaro said.  

Investments made in real-time PCR kits (test kits) for HIV and tuberculosis have helped speed the flow of testing around the country, with the help of trained teams. In many cases, the teams will travel to homes to take the tests, Alfaro said.

Most importantly, the government has been behind the efforts from the start. “We do not have to go and convince the authorities, because they are already fully convinced,” Alfaro said.

Among the lessons learned from Panama: Get ahead of the event and don’t underestimate the risk; think of possible scenarios and build a support team; quickly mobilize resources; share experiences with countries and work as a subregion in Central America; put the issue on the United Nations agenda and share information between different agencies.