Panama nursing homes remain free of COVID-19

Panama City, Apr 27 (efe-epa).- While nursing homes around the world are emerging as COVID-19 hotspots, 77-year-old Antonio Pacheco and his three companion play dominoes at Hogar Bolivar (Bolivar Home), an elderly care home north of the capital of Panama, a country where these institutions are currently free from coronavirus.

“Thank God no infected person has come (to the home) and none of us have become infected,” Pacheco, who has been at the residence for nine years, told EFE.

Panama, which has 5,779 COVID-19 infections and 165 deaths, has so far not recorded any cases in nursing homes, which is a rare occurrence compared to other countries around the world where the coronavirus has claimed the lives of thousands of elderly people.

All 109 seniors at Hogar Bolivar, which is run by nuns, have been under the indefinite lockdown declared by the Panamanian government on Mar. 25, including social distancing measures, to contain the spread of the virus.

None of them wear a mask, only the nurses and caregivers at the residence who, dressed in a blue and white uniform and hair gathered at the nape of the neck, come to work every day.

“This work is not easy… and right now more. When the virus was detected in Panama the rules changed, they no longer allowed visitors to enter and many precautions increased,” Denise Lorenzo, who has been an assistant nurse at the home for 28 years, told EFE as she prepared coffee and quail eggs for the residents.

Lorenzo agrees with the center’s director, Sister Rosa Isabel, that donations received since the first COVID-19 case was detected in Panama have been crucial to maintaining the health conditions established by the health ministry.

“At first we didn’t have masks, what we have now is thanks to donations,” she said.

Sister Isabel said that these donations were extremely important, especially of cleaning implements and supplies, as these products were a major daily expense for the home.

The nun admitted that following the guidelines to stop the spread of the novel COVID-19 coronavirus “is a daily dilemma,” as “workers have to travel and something can happen while they’re traveling back and forth.”

But peace reigns in the nursing home where the residents remain as far removed as possible from what goes on outside its walls, and the government and health authorities work on measures to halt the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

Although Panama has been under indefinite lockdown since Mar. 25, schools, non-essential shops and industries had already been closed two weeks before that and gatherings banned.

International flights and the entry of foreigners by any means are also suspended. EFE-EPA


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