Panama on Monday reopened its air borders to the arrival of international flights with tourists after keeping them closed for seven months due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The first 157 passengers, including 38 tourists, arrived on a flight from Miami, Florida. They were greeted with Panamanian flags and typical dances at Tocumen International Airport, 15 km northeast of Panama City.
“My boyfriend lives here, and I haven’t been able to see him in a year. We had planned to travel in March, but everything was closed, so it took us seven months to meet,” Chelsy, a Californian tourist, told AFP.
“We booked the first flight we could, because we have been waiting months for the borders to open, and we are very excited,” Kate Davini, also a U.S. tourist, said.
The commercial flight from Miami was the first to arrive in the Central American country after the closure of its air borders on March 22.
“Panama restarts its international operations, taking a fundamental step for regional connectivity,” said the Latin American and Caribbean Air Transport Association (ALTA) on its Twitter account.
“It is a day of hope for Panama,” said President Laurentino Cortizo.
The president participated, at the Tocumen Airport, in the christening ceremony of a plane of the Panamanian airline Copa.
Until Monday, Panama allowed the arrival of international flights only for transit — those passengers were not permitted to enter the country.
Tourists entering the country must bring a negative Covid-19 test certificate or take a test at the airport, the result of which is delivered in half an hour.
If testing positive for Covid-19, the person must comply with the biosecurity protocols decreed by the Ministry of Health, which include a mandatory quarantine.
In these first dates, Tocumen (PTY) will handle 80 daily operations, compared to the 400 that were typically carried out in March.
For now, daily flights will be to 36 destinations in the Americas and Europe with seven airlines, although three other airlines could restart operations before the end of the year.
With 4 million inhabitants, Panama has the highest number of Covid-19 infections in Central America, accumulating more than 120,000 cases and 2,491 deaths.