The World Health Organization declared a state of pandemic for the COVID-19 virus on 11 March 2020, which is why global sanitary measures were established in order to mitigate the contagion. Central America responded by shutting its borders or by modifying its border management policies, as well as launching massive hygiene campaigns. The application of these measures implied changes in the mobility of migrants transiting through Panama. In addition, organizations such as SICA have drawn up regional work plans for the contingency of the pandemic.
Since March 12, Panama has been in a state of emergency, with closed borders, as a result of the measures taken to contain the virus. Due to the closing of the Costa Rican borders on 16 March, Operation Controlled Flow has been severely affected. At present, there are 2,474 migrants stranded in the national territory, distributed as follows: In the stations of the Province of Darién there are 1,510 migrants at MRS La Peñita, 94 in MRS Bajo Chiquito, and 220 in MRS Lajas Blancas. In the province of Chiriquí, in the MRS Los Planes, there are currently 650 migrants. The closure of the border areas continues to be postponed until 23 July.
In the fight against COVID-19, the authorities of the Ministry of Health (MINSA by its Spanish acronym) presented a new guide for treatment of the virus at the first level of care. As of July 23, Panama has 56,817 confirmed cases, of which 23,780 are active cases; and a total death count of 1,209. In terms of border provinces, Darién reports a total of 1,210 cases, and Chiriquí a total of 3,024 positive cases. After detecting COVID-19 positive cases at MRS Los Planes, isolation was complicated due to the lack of adequate spaces and communication issues. The affected migrants are not isolated, they share spaces without abiding safe distancing measures or queue to get their food without following bio-security recommendations. An appeal is made to international organizations to intervene, since MINSA left the migration station.
Since the beginning of the community transmission of COVID-19 in Darién, 9 positive cases have been recorded in MRS Lajas Blancas and there are no updated data from the MRS La Peñita. At the time of writing this report, 220 recovered cases are reported in the MRS Lajas Blancas. UNICEF reports that there are 29 newborns, of which 20 have been registered with the Electoral Tribunal, with nine pending. In the MRS Los Planes de Gualaca in Chiriquí, the same number of COVID-19 positive cases is maintained, these being 8 migrants, three National Migration Service (NMS) officials and one SENAFRONT official. So far, these people have not received medications; only the officials who are isolated in one of the cabins because they purchase the medications. However, migrants do not have the monetary resources to do so. A minor who was stung by a scorpion was evacuated, so it is necessary to fumigate the area. Sixteen COVID-19 tests have been conducted. Attention at the Health Center located in the community of Gualaca has been suspended.
The President of Panama decided to decree Friday July 17, as a day of national reflection, through Executive Decree 295, since Panama reached the unfortunate number of 1,000 deaths from COVID-19. In addition, MINSA presented the new treatment guide for COVID-19 at the first level of care. On Monday, July 20, the school year began at the official campuses. However, not all children have Internet access, and this has caused an exodus from the farms to the communities in the province of Darién in order to seek Internet access. This dynamic is reversed in the community of La Peñita, where more and more families are abandoning their homes due to the constant threats and levels of violence from the migrant population towards the inhabitants of the La Peñita community.