Panama has announced it will reopen its borders to international visitors from all countries on October 12, 2020. With COVID-19 (coronavirus) still a worldwide concern, The Panama Tourism Authority has worked closely with the Ministry of Health, alongside other government authorities, to implement strategic health and safety protocols designed to keep both visitors and local communities throughout the destination safe during and after its initial tourism reopening.
When planning a trip to Panama, the implementation of the new health and safety protocols begins with pre-travel requirements. All incoming travelers, including Panamanians, must present a negative COVID-19 PCR or antigen test upon arrival, which must be taken no more than 48 hours prior to arrival. If a passenger’s COVID-19 test was taken more than 48 hours from arrival, passengers will be mandated to take a rapid test at the airport prior to customs and are responsible for the cost, which will be approximately $30.
Passengers must also complete an electronic affidavit before checking-in to their flight, where they must agree to comply with all sanitary control measures outlined by the Ministry of Health. The affidavit will be available on the Visit Panama website, under “COVID-19: Test Requirements and Travel Guidelines,” beginning October 10. It is not a requirement for visitors to have health insurance for entry; however, it is recommended.
Surgical face masks are required at all times when arriving and walking through Tocumen International Airport and would only be removed for identification purposes. Travelers should be prepared to present their negative COVID-19 test result at customs. Additional precautions are being implemented at the airport to ensure the safety of its employees and guests, such as temperature screenings and physical distancing measures of a minimum of six feet (two meters). In the case of an elevated temperature, passengers will be subject to a rapid COVID-19 test at their expense and/or additional health screenings. If the test result is positive, the Panamanian government will facilitate a hotel stay at no cost to the traveler for a mandatory quarantine period of seven days at which time another test will be administered.
After leaving the airport and as the journey to explore Panama begins, it is important to note that face masks are required in all public spaces—for residents and visitors alike. In order to ensure safety and promote sanitary practices, there is an increased presence of hand sanitizing stations, usage of electronic payment options, standing or digital menus and maps accessible via smartphone designed to limit contact with others.
Visitors looking to experience Panamanian cuisine may need to make reservations as restaurants are limiting the number of diners in order to avoid crowding. Restaurant tables are separated by a distance of at least six feet to promote social distancing. Additionally, tour operators and attractions are required to reduce capacity 50 percent in ground transportation vehicles, and event spaces are limited to 30 percent capacity and four people per table.
With the implementation of the new protocols, Panama has earned the World Travel & Tourism Council "Safe Travels" stamp of approval, the world’s first ever global safety and hygiene stamp based on guidelines from the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Also supported by the United Nations World Tourism Organization, the initiative focuses on the enhanced safety efforts needed to re-establish traveler confidence worldwide.