Panamanian island hopes Covid-19-free label will bring back tourists

Taboga, Panama, May 21 (EFE).- Residents of this island in the Gulf of Panama are hoping for a revival of tourism now that health authorities have certified Taboga as free of Covid-19 and fully vaccinated.

“At this moment we find zero cases of Covid-19 on the Island of Taboga,” Dr. Ana Lorena Chang, director of public health for the Panama City Metropolitan Region, told Efe.

Chang made the 20 km (12 mi) trip from the mainland to Taboga to oversee the administration of the second dose of the coronavirus vaccine to every eligible resident.

“As it is an area of difficult access, we made the decision to vaccinate the entire population over 16 – pregnant women, teachers – and this entails a coverage of around 1,800 people in the Island of Taboga, which includes the islets of east Otoque and west Otoque,” the Health Ministry official said.

Yarineth Martinez, 23, is one of the Taboga residents who received the second dose of the vaccine on Friday.

“We must not drop our guard, we have to continue taking care of ourselves,” she told Efe. The pandemic “is going to go on a little longer.”

Taboga essentially opted to self-isolate soon after the coronavirus reached Panama, which has accumulated 372,800 confirmed cases and 6,314 deaths.

“The largest number of cases in this site occurred in January with around 16 cases, but people acted quickly,” Chang said on Taboga. “Since that time the population has held it steady at zero cases.”

Taboga has long been a favorite of tourists drawn by the crystalline blue and green waters and the lush vegetation of the “island of flowers.”

“Thanks to the strict caution we had with our residents we successfully managed to be able to have an opening of beaches that is now enabling the businesses in Taboga to recover little-by-little,” Mayor Magaly Ricord told Efe.

She stressed the importance of universal vaccination in protecting residents “and so be able to receive tourists.”

“The message to tourists is, please, when you come to Taboga take all biosecurity measures. The Tabogans are awaiting you with open arms,” Ricord said. “They have behaved well, they are complying with all the biosecurity measures and we hope that the tourists can support us as well.” EFE gf-cl/dr

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