Azuero amidst the arrival of COVID-19 in Panamá
Landscape of a farm in Venao, Pedasí, Los Santos.
Right now, the world is experiencing a crisis that has taken over every corner of the planet, filling it with uncertainty and fear; we are facing a virus that spreads rapidly, infecting most countries, which is why WHO has declared a pandemic situation.
In March of 2020, the first case of COVID-19 was presented in our country, and since then a national alert has been sent, promoting essential care to prevent the contagion and spread of this virus in Panamá.
We have chatted via phone with different partners in our communities in the region to find out how the current situation is being handled with the arrival of the virus in the country.
We spoke with José Cárdenas, a collaborator of the Ministry of Environment, based in Las Tablas, in the Integrated Management of Watersheds. He informs us that “My Environment” has now taken steps by reducing its staff and adjusting business hours; his department has been closed for the time being. As a result, he is providing support to other areas of the ministry.
As for the situation in the city of Las Tablas, he observes people getting alarmed and spreading awareness of the situation. They are taking measures dictated by the Ministry of Health and abiding by it to the point where they are staying at home. In other words, they are self-quarantining themselves.
It is evident that citizens are concerned as to how they will be able to cope with the situation economically as many workers have been dismissed and granted unpaid leave.
We spoke to Doralis Cedeño, a teacher at the Primary School of Oria Arriba, a community that is located in the district of Pedasí. She informs us that, at the beginning of classes, she talked to her students about the COVID-19 situation and they reacted calmly and receptive to the information provided to them.
Being a little far removed from the city of Pedasí, the community of Oria Arriba does not have much contact with people who do not belong to the community. This grants a certain sense of security and tranquility to the population of Oria Arriba, but they still abide by the measures imposed by the authorities and stay informed of everything that happens in the country and the region.
The teacher lives in Pedasí and informs us that her family is following instructions as she does not leave her house. She also applauds the rapid action of the Municipality in restricting the entry of tourists, preventing possible contagion in the region.
Dalila Soriano, President of the Environmental Committee of Paritilla tells us how, at first, the community of Paritilla did not take the situation seriously, ignoring the indications given to them. However, once many public spaces were closed, the magnitude of the national problem was realized and citizens began to obey the instructions given by the Ministry of Health.
Citizens are staying inside their houses, awaiting information channels to stay aware of what is going on in the country. We are also told that no one has entered the country from the outside, reassuring many citizens.
We interviewed a restaurant owner in the city of Las Tablas and he informed us about how the current situation has impacted businesses in the area.
From his perspective, he views the situation with concern as it is a global problem that affects both those living in large cities and communities with a large elderly population. Problems, such as access to trained medical centres and the distribution of essential, medical equipment, can occur in these remote communities.
His restaurant’s business has dropped 80%. As a result, they have had to take drastic measures regarding the wages of regular workers and the purchase of food. They are replenishing only the amount of food that has been used in the day.
The cleaning protocol was modified to include disinfecting all surfaces with alcohol and boiling the sponges to disinfect them. After deliveries, they wash their hands thoroughly with soap and use alcoholic gel.
He views the uncertain situation, with the new measures decreed, as people staying in their homes and receiving low to no wages. In our region, there is a lot of informal work, people who depend on what they earn every day to take home; our situation may result in strong economic instability.
He stresses that in the end the most important thing is one’s health and taking care of it is a priority at the moment. The economy will be replenished but we must do our part to cope with this situation in the best way.
We are experiencing this situation at the global level, so we must be aware that the measures proposed by the authorities must be abided by. We understand that it may be difficult but we must act responsibly for the wellbeing of everyone. We must treat ourselves more humanely, while practicing empathy and solidarity to make this situation more bearable.
The Azuero region has been characterized by its fighting, hard-working, united, persistent, kind and empathetic people with difficult causes. Recognizing these qualities, the Pro Eco Azuero Foundation is proud to belong and collaborate with this region as it feels compelled to give support in such a way that the Azuero communities have some peace of mind and optimism that we will soon overcome this situation.
Here, in Azuero, a large part of the vulnerable population resides in face of this situation. For this reason, we must take care of ourselves and protect each other, together we will succeed as a region and as a country.
#StayAtHome Do it for yourself, your loved ones, your community, your nation and your world.
Translated By: Khushmeet Chandi, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology