It’s been a crazy few weeks all around the world, and I write this on March 31st, 2020, a perfect, quiet, sun filled morning, with the birds chirping outside my window, acting as if everything in the world is normal.
Last week we hosted a free information on moving to Panama Zoom conference, with almost 100 people from around the world attending. As many of you have asked for the recording just click the link below. (it will open in a new window). We discuss on this call a lot of what is going on in Panama with this virus.
COVID-19 UPDATE for Our Tours
Oscar and Rod, at Retire in Panama Tours, realize the uncertain times we are going through with COVID-19, but we realize, things will soon get back to normal, so, we have decided not to shut down our booking system, and continue servicing our clients and future clients as we wait to resume our tours. It was obvious last Thursday night, with the record crowd we had on our call, and with the mood on the call that many of you are still planing on retiring or moving to Panama. So for the time being, you can book one of our tours this fall, or in 2021 without making a deposit. We will hold that tour spot for you and when airports and country re-open, we will invoice for the deposit at that time.
This will help you plan out the next 18 months and keep the dream alive of Retiring in Panama.
You can check the tour dates HERE:
Also we remain open daily from 8am – 8pm eastern to answer the phone, live chat on the website and answer your emails regarding Panama.
COVID-19 and Panama’s Reaction and Handling
This article will get a lot of different responses, but because Oscar and Rod, and Retire in Panama Tours, are very transparent about telling you the absolute truth about Panama, even before you come here on a visit, or book a tour. Panama is not for everyone, and the last thing we want is to have you come on a tour, and only realize then, that is is not for you. Everyone around the world has different opinions on the political spectrum, on what government roles should be, from the socialists to the libertarians. What I can tell you from living here for almost 10 years, my personal experience and opinion, as that Panama is right in the middle, slightly right on the pro business side.
From a day to day perspective the government really stays out of your life, with a lot less regulations in conducting you daily life. Sure there is bureaucracy here, and when it is in a language you do not understand it is eave worse. But if you want to pick the bananas in your back yard, load them into your pickup truck, and sell them on the street, no one is really gonna stop you. If you want to set up a little shop in the Mercado in town, to sell you fruits and vegetables, or your crafts, you can get a monthly permit for $15. Panama government does not want to have to look after its people, so they let them do it themselves and try to stay out of things.
Panama does not have a welfare state, but is has wonderful people that look after themselves and their families.
If you are thinking of moving to another country, being able to see how that country is handling a crisis, is very important. And because of COVID-19, you can now see that. On the UN’s Spanish web site, they say Panama is a leader in handling this Virus.
Now, since the below article was published last, Panama had enacted a National Quarantine, all stores closed except food, pharmacy, banks, and we have one hour, three times a week, to leave our homes to take care of these necessities. The situation here is not like you see on the news with other quarantine countries, with tanks, armies out controlling the people. Panama does not have a military, the quarantine is being controlled by police, peace officers and members of our health department. If you get caught out in quarantine, you are not going to get thrown in a cell, you are going to get a fine, unless of course you are caught looting or disturbing the peace.
There was a real plan here, enacted less than a week after the first case,Plan Protégete Panamá, we have enough tests, in fact, Panama is doing more testing per capital than most other Latin American countries. We have a strong economy, strong banks, and good hospitals. Two hotels in the city have been set up as extra hospital beds, and 40 portable hospitals are ready for distribution through out the country if needed. Ventilators are in stock, with more on order. One million bags of food have been packed, and started to go out to the people effected by this that their income was cut off due to temporary job loss. A system of getting cash to the affected has been put into place.
I feel that in a couple weeks, we will have flattened the cure here, and currently our cases are about ½ of the USA, and about equal to Canada, based on population.
This is a translated article from the UN Spanish site, where they call Panama a leader in controlling this virus.
Original Spanish Article
I wanted to leave you with something. Again, if you are looking at Panama as a destination for yourself, knowing how the country is run, and by whom, is a smart idea.
Last week President Nito Cortizo gave a speech to the public, the English translation is below, long, but a very good read. I read the speech, then I found the video online and watched (in Spanish) and read along. Two words came to my mind. Leadership and compassion. I would love to hear your opinion.
“Good afternoon, I wanted to take this opportunity to communicate to the country about what we’re doing and what we’re going to do. The world and Panama is facing a difficult moment. It’s a moment of uncertainty. This is going to be a hard war, a prolonged and extensive war, but I don’t have any doubt that we’re going to win it. A team has been established to mitigate all the effects of the virus, health effects, social effects, and economic effects. How did we come to the decision to put these measures in place? In light of evidence. ‘You have to do this, you have to do that’ – in this kind of situation that stuff isn’t worth much, we have to support executive actions with the decisions of the health teams. The ministry of health, CSS, scientists, the directors of different institutions, and other organizations observe and analyze make a decision and pass it to the executive branch.
We’re beginning a 24 hour quarantine obviously with some logical exceptions, health workers, public forces, food sellers and grocery stores, chinitos, banks. Daily movement is allowed but restricted based on the last number of cedula (he lays out details for this, there are charts you can refer to) for purchase of food, gas, medications. This is a 24 hours quarantine but there are VERY IMPORTANT exemptions, understand that this is a decision based in evidence provided by the health team. The health team needs to respond to this crisis with constantly having in mind “Why are we here” and have a lot of discipline, because this is a difficult situation.
We need to take ALL decisions based on evidence. When we say you need to stay in your house, it’s important that you do so, maintain a meter and a half between yourself and other people. When there’s someone infected, it’s not just an isolation process, it’s also a treatment process, we need to keep in mind what the enemy is. When we see someone suffering, when we see someone fall in the streets, it’s a real heartache, I give to everyone affected by this virus my condolences. I can’t give you a hug because right now that’s prohibited. We need to keep pushing and fighting, I’m sure we’re going to win this thing.
Wash your hands using the water responsibly. It’s important that we conserve water. Conserve water brushing your teeth or flushing the toilet, make sure it doesn’t run. Every gallon of water that we save is important. We’re on top of the financial situation, making tests, and treatment. We have the resources to keep advancing as we need to for months. For sure, our resources are not infinite. We don’t have a central bank. We have to be efficient, and organized in the following months and use our resources well. We have to be very conscious of using our resources effectively.
We assure to the country we’re going to maintain all of the transfer programs, $1.6B in CSS transfers, gas subsidies, electricity, welfare, scholarships and many other subsidies and benefits – we’re going to guarantee EVERYTHING but please utilize these things on what is necessary – food and medicine – forget about everything else – worry about the basics. We’re not gonna leave anybody behind who is losing their income, but we ALL have to share the burden.
This is the moment of solidarity – there is no other. Nobody who has lost their income on account of the virus is going to lose their home due to mortgage default. The banks are flexible, believe me, I’ve talked to the banking authorities and they are going to be flexible. Rest assured if you’re without income for three months you won’t need to pay your mortgage. Nobody is going to take away your house because you can’t work. For those of you who fall in the range of standard usage the electric bill will be lowered by around 50%. Nobody is going to lose electricity because they aren’t working. 300-1000 KW usage will be discounted by 30%. In any case you have three months of grace where your electricity will not be cut. Nobody is going to cut the water service in the next three months. But use it responsibly. Nobody is going to cut the internet service in the next three months. This relief plan is a fight for survival against a mortal enemy. Relief is for food, medications, and gas. We’re testing a system to use the cedula like a debit card. We’ve been testing it for a week and we need to study it more but it seems like it’s working. The relief plan is for families, people that live day to day, people who have lost their wages, vulnerable populations.
All of the logistic aren’t simple. We’re advancing and we’re doing tests. We’re going to be watching house by house, working with local authorities, to implement this process. Remember we’re in war time. We have to have solidarity. Don’t ask for things that someone else needs more. If you have plantains, or chickens, or eggs, and you have a neighbor in trouble, offer them some. Demonstrate the solidarity and the greatness of the country. Remember that the relief plan for the country is a plan of survival. We have a bank account in Banco Nacional for receiving donations to augment the national response. Our resources are very finite and every bit of help is needed. We need that each and every person shows solidarity. This virus kills solidarity, unity, discipline, order, and faith. If we unite, we’re going to defeat this virus and live a more beautiful life. We have to have patience. In a situation like this patience is very important. Resistance, the good administration of food, plains, rice, beans, it’s essential we administer everything well in this fight for survival.
This is the time to pray. If you don’t pray to above you won’t be blessed. Give thanks to God. Today I received videos of solidarity for example from restaurant owners, disco tech owners, bar owners, a beautiful but different type of video giving us joy and strength, that said let’s move forward, uniting forces. Someone from the police arrived and he said “We leave for the streets in the hand of god.” There are many units in the police that are testing positive, but when I read these messages from the police, sinaproc, the public forces, saying we’re going to the streets united, wrapped in the hands of God, we’re going to defeat our enemy.
We have to give thanks to God for the people on the front line. I have to be in meetings and I have to be answer answering people till 1 in the morning, but we have to give thanks to the doctors, the nurses, technicians, administrators, the laundry workers, the people cooking and cleaning, all these health workers, damn. We have such an extraordinary team in this country. To the public forces and functionaries that have to be on the front line in this 24 hours quarantine. To those operating the metro and busses, those in the fields and the sea producing food, thank you. Those in the public forces, those producing food, the chinos, the supers, the means of conversation, to this spirit that grows in adversity, for this warrior attitude, the only thing I can say is I, Nito Cortizo, with the loudest cry, thank you.
All of us Panamanians need to keep uniting forces. We’re fighting against the current. We all have to advance in the same direction, have solidarity, in the hand of God, us the world and Panama, are going to overcome this enemy, the coronavirus. Thank you for allowing me to speak to you – to all who are listening, I love this country. To all of you who are listening, love this country. Take out your Panamanian flag, no matter how old it is, take out your warrior flag. We’re gonna keep moving forward, like we’re doing, doing well. To the health team and the Panamanians in the front line, all we can say is take care of yourself, but please, care for us, too. Let’s keep advancing. May God bless this great country. Thank you.” ~ Nito Cortizo
It’s more than a tour . . it’s an experience.