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‘It’s wonderful’: Panamanians return to beaches after pandemic closure

The Panamanian government on Saturday reopened beaches to tourists after they had been closed for seven months to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The move comes despite the fact that the country has the highest number of COVID-19 infections in Central America.

“Wow! I haven’t come to the beach since February, and it’s wonderful for us,” Andrea Rincón, a Venezuelan resident in Panama, told AFP.

“We always come as a family and have not come for so long … we are recharging to full energy,” added Rincón on Farallón beach, on the Pacific, about 120 kilometers southwest of Panama City.

After being closed since March due to the pandemic, the Panamanian government decided to reopen the beaches Saturday.

However, they can only be accessed from 6:00 a.m. to 4 p.m., with a mask, and in family groups of a maximum of seven people, who will not be able to drink alcoholic beverages. In addition, anyone who visits after testing positive for Covid-19 will be detained and sanctioned.

The Ministry of Health announced in a statement that during the day it deployed different operations to verify compliance with the regulations.

“My son got us up at six [in the morning] because he wanted to come to the beach,” Panamanian Alexis Pineda told AFP, wearing a hat and sunglasses.

“We are very happy that the beaches have reopened and hopefully, God willing, the cases will go down so that we can continue to enjoy all these environments,” Pineda added.

With the reopening of the beaches, the authorities intend to encourage tourism, hit by the economic crisis and the various quarantine measures.

“They were difficult times, it was 7 months that this was basically abandoned,” César Melior, manager of a small restaurant on Farallón beach, told AFP.

“People want to come to the beach, they are abiding by the biosecurity rules and everyone is having a good time and creating a good atmosphere,” added Melior.

The government had already allowed the main economic activities to reopen, but was reluctant to reopen the beaches for fear of crowds.

On October 12, the first international flights with tourists began to arrive after the closure of air borders on March 22.

“We arrived in Panama 10 days ago and the beaches are opening today, it’s a shame that we have to go back today,” said the Spanish tourist Paula Hermo.

Panama, with four million inhabitants, has the highest number of Covid-19 cases in Central America, with more than 128,000 infected and 2,628 deaths.

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