Since 12 March 2020, Panama has been under a state of emergency, with closed borders, as a result of the measures imposed to contain the virus. Due to the closing of the Costa Rican borders on 16 March, Operation Controlled Flow has been severely affected. Currently, there are 2,536 migrants stranded in the national territory, distributed as follows: in the migrant stations of the province of Darién there are 1,671 in MRS La Peñita, 124 in Bajo Chiquito, and 195 in MRS Lajas Blancas. There are also 5 migrants at MRS Ponuloso, but this specific migration station is not covered in this report. Furthermore, there are 541 migrants in the province of Chiriquí at MRS Los Planes. Borders continue to be closed until 22 June according to provisions from the Government of Panama.
As of 4 June, Panama has 15,044 confirmed cases and a total of 363 deaths. In terms of border provinces, Darién reports a total of 237 cases, and Chiriquí a total of 424 positive cases. In this context, the Government of Panama decreed the mandatory use of masks at the national level as of 2 June.
Last Wednesday, 3 June, there was a new protest by migrants at MRS La Peñita. Migrants, as part of their discontent, threatened to cause damage to the MRS. In this situation, the National Border Service (SENAFRONT by its Spanish acronym) conducted a strong operational security deployment. The main demand of migrants is that they should be provided with better conditions at the migration station, mainly in terms of food and access to drinking water, in addition to being allowed to continue their migration journey.
The Ombudsman's Office acted as a mediator between migrants, SENAFRONT and the National Migration Service (NMS), which reached several agreements, which include transferring migrants to other MRSs, food improvements, a request submitted to the Costa Rica's General Directorate for Migration and Immigration (DGME) to generate bilateral agreements for the continuity of the migration flow, and drawing up a list of potential applicants for voluntary returns to their countries of origin.
Since the beginning of community transmission of COVID-19 in Darién at MRS La Peñita, no serious cases have been reported; patients with moderate virus disease have been managed under a stay-at-hotel/hospital protocol in Panama City. At the time of writing this report, 6 positive COVID-19 cases have been reported (6 currently in Panama City for being moderate cases), 175 recovered cases, and 14 remain at MRS Lajas Blancas because of possible contacts. A pair of twins and a baby were born, both from Haitian mothers.
At MRS Los Planes de Gualaca in Chiriquí, the health situation has not changed much, the three people with leishmaniasis continue under observation and medical treatment. Currently there is a crisis with family violence and states of anxiety that has upset a group of people, that are constantly complaining and protesting. Therefore, there was a request to increase the number of security staff. So far, zero cases of COVID-19 have been reported at MRS Los Planes.