In what has been one of the longest and strictest of the world’s COVID lockdowns, Panama remains closed to all foreign visitors across all borders.
The government confirms more than 82,000 coronavirus cases and over 1,700 deaths, figures that remain stubbornly high despite stringent police and military enforced curfews. President Laurentino Cortizo continues to implement strict internal emergency regulations to fight the China virus pandemic, his main aim being to protect the Panama Canal Zone that continues to be Panama’s primary economic asset.
Things are not too good in Panama…
The British Embassy in Panama this week issued the following statement under guidance from the UK government if the Panama borders are opened anytime soon:
Based on currently available information, there is a high risk of exposure to COVID-19 in this country. All travellers are advised to avoid non-essential travel to Panama. Individuals entering or returning to the UK from Panama will be required to follow additional UK border measures which includes self-isolation for 14 days.
Lockdown curfews are rigorously enforced. On the 21st August all non-essential commercial flights into the country were banned for a further thirty days, only emergency and humanitarian flights are permitted to enter Panama. Curfew restriction were 24/7, with men and women only being allowed out for two hours on alternate days. Although this exceptionally tough restriction is now being eased in some provinces, Friday to Sunday weekends are still severely locked down for everyone. There is some good news – alcohol consumption bans are being lifted. The big fear is civil unrest that might affect both the presidency and the still functioning Panama Canal… but there is a history of violent government change in most Central American countries.
Our original plan was to head through the Canal into Caribbean sometime this year. These plans then changed with the coronavirus pandemic, leading to our emergency evacuation back to the UK in March. We had revised our plans to head southwards to the southern cape, but the rapidly deteriorating situation in the South American countries quickly scuppered this idea too.
Right now we are back in the UK with no indications of when we will be able to return to Sänna in Panama. Our personal travel insurances are invalid, vessel insurances are up in the air and there are no international long haul flights into the region. Our best indications at the moment are that the land border with Costa Rica will soon be opened – Costa Rica has placed the UK and most of Europe on a safe air-bridge standing so flights may be allowed in from Europe which would then mean crossing the border overland is a possibility.
Without doubt we made the right decision to leave Sänna in Panama to return to the UK. In the meantime our circumnavigation plans to return Sänna to UK are well and truly on hold.
We were keen to finally leave US and Central American waters, Alaska and British Columbia in particular were a wonderful experience, up there with some of the best since we left the Mediterranean to sail our way eastwards. Aside from good American friends we’ve made, Coastal United States has largely been a poor experience along with most of Mexico, which American sailors seem to rave about in great numbers. Nicaragua and Guatemala have been the sole jewels so far in our trek south from British Columbia. Many long distance sailors who have sailed these waters told us it would not be a memorable experience compared to the rest of the sailing world, particularly the Pacific US. We are now keen to get through the canal and into the Caribbean – eventually to make our way back to the five-thousand year cultures of the Mediterranean.
First, there is this damned Chinese virus…
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