Panama offers COVID-19 tests to international travellers

Panama offers COVID-19 tests to international travellers

Passengers stand in line at the Tocumen International Airport during the coronavirus disease (COVID
Passengers stand in line at the Tocumen International Airport during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Panama City, Panama Oct 16, 2020. (REUTERS/Erick Marciscano)

PANAMA CITY: Panama is the latest country to offer travellers a COVID-19 test when they arrive at its main airport, a little less than a week after resuming international flights following a seven-month suspension due to the pandemic.

The Sofia SARS Antigen Fluorescent Immunoassay tests are meant to prevent the import of new cases at a time when parts of Europe and the United States are seeing a resurgence.

READ: COVID-19 at 'turning point' in Europe, hitting at-risk groups

International flights to and from Panama, a regional transportation hub, resumed last Monday, Oct 12.

Since then, some 1,000 people were tested, said Yelitza Campos, an adviser at Jers Medical, the distributer of the tests in Panama.

A Panamanian health official said of those tested, about 20 people have come back positive for COVID-19.

A healthcare worker measures the temperatures of travelers before entering the Tocumen Internationa
A healthcare worker measures the temperatures of travellers before entering the Tocumen International Airport during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Panama City, Panama Oct 16, 2020. (REUTERS/Erick Marciscano)

Panamanians hope resuming international air travel with additional safety measures will help the Isthmus nation known for its famous shipping canal regain competitiveness.

Raffoul Arab, the manager of the Tocumen International Airport in Panama City, said the tests are for travellers who do not already have a negative test less than 48 hours old.

READ: Global COVID-19 cases rise by one-day record of 400,000

Venezuelan traveller Jorge Lopez last week arrived in Panama City on a flight from Miami and took the test at the airport, in a few seconds, without having to wait in line for it.

"This makes travelling to Panama easier," he said. "Here, they do the test quickly and at US$50 it's accessible."

Panama, which took strict measures earlier this year to contain the spread of the pandemic, has so far registered about 125,000 official cases and 2,500 deaths. 

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Source: Reuters/kv

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