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Discontent grows in Panama as country sets record in cases, deaths

December 18, 2020

Panama broke its daily record of deaths and daily coronavirus cases, exceeding 200,000 accumulated infections, a situation that has saturated several hospitals and generated some manifestations of discontent with the management of the crisis.

Thursday, the Central American country added 42 new deaths and 3,348 new positive cases, the Panamanian government said in its daily statement on the pandemic.

These numbers of deaths and new infections in one day represent a record for Panama, which with 4.2 million inhabitants totals more than 203,000 infections and 3,481 deaths from the coronavirus.

In addition, it is the country in Central America with the most reported Covid-19 infections.

Social discontent has grown, with several union and student demonstrations protesting the government’s handling of the crisis.

Last Wednesday, 27 people, mostly students, were arrested after a protest in which they criticized the announced withdrawal of an economic benefit that would affect those under 25 years of age.

During the protest, there were clashes between protesters and police, per AFP reports.

In the altercations, a protester was hit with a fist by an officer, while a photographer for an international news agency was attacked by law enforcement agencies while carrying out his duties, according to various images released by the press.

The events triggered criticism from social organizations and journalist unions.

The Association of Foreign Press Correspondents in Panama (Acopep) condemned and regretted “the police aggression” against press personnel and expressed “deep concern” over recent police actions against journalists in various protests.

The pandemic has caused some hospitals to stop receiving patients, while the authorities seek to enable and adapt different infrastructure to care for the sick.

Due to the upturn in cases, the government has been forced to hire specialized foreign personnel to support local doctors and nurses, overwhelmed and exhausted by the increase in the pandemic.

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