Lockdown Elsewhere

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A beautiful evening in Panama City before the lockdown

Maddy Butcher writes:

In early March, I visited my son, Aidan, in Panama, where for more than a year he had been managing a guest lodge and farm in the picturesque village of El Valle de Anton. A few weeks later, the country had its first case of Covid19, brought to Panama by a woman from Spain. The government promptly took massive measures to contain the virus.

Panama City

“March 24 was like a light switch. All these decrees came down from the federal government,” he told me. Up to then, people were celebrating carnival. “The only message around the Corona virus was the occasional ‘wash your hands.’ During carnival, people jam-pack city squares and scream to get hosed down with water from on high. It’s literally anti-social distancing. Then as soon as the Spanish lady showed up, the entire country seemed to shut off.”

Within days, ninety percent of businesses were closed. The airport was closed to non-Panamanians. At last count, just over 300 people in Panama had died of Covid19 while there have been about 11,000 confirmed cases. 

Checkpoints in all municipalities were set up and all essential workers were required to show special permits. Aidan spent days filing paperwork for the many essential employees, so they could travel to and from work.

With the farm no longer providing fruit and vegetables to lodge clients, Aidan distributed baskets of the surplus to those needing food in El Valle. His pregnant partner sequestered at home.

El Valle public market before the pandemic

One evening, he got a call from one of his employees:

Biking to work, Miguel had been stopped at a check point. The police hadn’t accepted his permit and he was detained at the barracks. They told him that he could pay a $100 fine or be put to work for nine hours. From early morning to evening, he slaughtered chickens and prepped them for cooking. Other detained workers mucked stalls for the mounted unit.

Aidan contacted the police supervisor to ask why Miguel’s permit, which he had been using without issue for weeks, was rendered invalid. A new shift of out-of-town policemen had been working that day, the supervisor explained. They must have been ill-informed. No other explanation was given.

Men and women may only travel for essential errands within two-hour windows, on specific days, and always within their home towns. Aidan can go to the local grocery store between 6:30 am – 8:30 am on Tuesdays, Thursday, and Saturdays. The prohibition law, in effect since mid-March, has been slightly modified; one six-pack limit per store visit.

Recently, they’ve started a garden and bought some chicks. These transactions involved website, WhatsApp back and forth’s, and boxed, curbside pickups.

Days can be hot and dull. All parks are closed, so there is no open space to escape to.

“It’s a little depressing. There’s a lot of second-guessing. Everything has to go through a filter: ‘Can I do this during my window for going out?’ Parks are closed so there is no open space to escape to. We are encouraged, mandated by the government to retreat even further into our own worlds.”

In a national park, overlooking El Valle














If you do get out to recreate on public lands, please follow these simple guidelines:

Posted in Corona Pandemic, Covid Pandemic, Inside Outside and tagged .

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