Panama Entry Protocols Announced for its October 12 Tourism Reopen

Sep 24, 2020

Panama announces new protocols for entering the country once international flights start up again on October 12.

In a move guaranteed to stress out citizens, expats, and tourists alike, the Panamanian Civil Aviation Authority announced today, that from October 12, anyone entering Panama will need to produce a negative COVID-19 test taken within 48 hours of arrival.

This marks a change from the current rule (applicable only to nationals and residents, as tourists can’t enter Panama yet) mandating a test within 96 hours of arrival, followed by two-weeks self-quarantine.

Once Tocumen International Airport reopens to tourists on October 12, the 96-hour rule gets tightened to a 48-hour rule.

Arrivals who bring their 48-hour tests will no longer need to quarantine.

Arrivals without the negative test results will undergo a rapid test at the airport (at their own expense), before passing through immigration.

If the test is negative, they can go on their way.

If the rapid test turns out positive, the arrival will go straight into mandatory isolation at a Ministry of Health hospital. After a week in isolation they’ll get an antigen test. If that test is positive, they’ll need to continue isolating for another week. If negative, they can leave hospital and carry on with their lives.

Panama expects these rules to be in place until at least the end of the year, at which point they’ll review them again.

Panama’s La Gaceta Oficial published these protocols today, meaning they’re now law. They apply to anyone entering Panama, including Panamanian citizens returning home. The only exceptions will be airline crews and humanitarian personnel.

The rules also state that anyone can enter Panama as long as they have the test. All nations and specific US states can enter Panama from October 12.

In early September, the Panamanian government announced international tourism would restart on October 12.

Tocumen Airport has been operating as a transit hub since August, and will restart domestic flights again on September 28. That marks the start of Panama getting domestic tourism up and running before international tourism returns on October 12.

Those traveling to Panama from October 12 will most likely find it hard to find a COVID-testing center with a 48-hour or less turnaround time.

When Costa Rica reopened its borders to tourism on August 1, it too had a similar 48-hour test requirement. In the end, they had to relax that rule to a slightly more flexible 72-hour requirement.

Many travelers trying to get into Costa Rica, though, still find even that a challenge. There’s zero doubt that people trying to travel to Panama will have the same issues.

It remains to be seen if Panama relaxes them like Costa Rica did, once they find virtually nobody able to enter.

James Dyde is the editor of centralamerica.com. He lives in Escazu, Costa Rica.