In the News from Panama

Panama Reopens Restaurants; Ramping Up Vaccinations

The government of Panama has officially reopened restaurants and beaches, as the country begins the process of safely reopening. Officials also revealed that the government has ordered 8 million vaccinations, enough to fully inoculate about 80 percent of the country.

While the last year has been a rollercoaster of announcements and starts and stops, there are many signs that Panama is starting to emerge from the worst pandemic in 100 years. The latest announcement from the Ministry of Health removes many of the most restrictive elements of the latest lockdown and allows beaches, hotels, and swimming pools to reopen, although with tight capacity limits.

In the initial phases, all businesses will need to follow strict guidelines, including wearing masks and maintaining social distancing. But having services like restaurants and beaches open will certainly be a major step toward normalcy. Hotels will also start to reopen, which help restart travel, business, and Panama real estate market.

Government officials said they made the move to reopen restaurants and other businesses after analyzing the latest data about the spread of the disease and the impact of the lockdown. The restaurants were scheduled to reopen on Feb. 15, but the date was moved up at the urging of restaurant owners, El Capital Financiero reports.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health reported that it expected to buy 8 million doses of vaccine. Panama has a population of 4.2 million, but many of the vaccines require two doses, which means the current expected supply would cover about 80 percent of the country, Reuters reports.

Panama will acquire an additional 3 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 3 million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine from Russia. Ministry officials also hope to buy 1.1 million doses manufactured by AstraZeneca PLC and 300,000 shots produced by Johnson & Johnson, Health Minister Luis Sucre said.

The government is also working with the World Health Organization to deliver 1 million doses through the group’s COVAX initiative, Reuters reports.

The news has many leaders predicting that Panama’s economy will quickly bounce back from the pandemic. Panama has also been at the forefront of restarting international travel. It was one of the first countries to require COVID testing to enter the country and offer in-airport testing upon arrival. Copa Airlines is also implementing a global test of an international travel passport, which could provide passengers with verifications of tests and vaccinations to speed travel through airports and increase safety.