Yesterday was officially the first time in almost three months that we could move freely in Panama. “Opening up” started by being able to run, walk and even ride a bicycle outside, but yesterday was almost total freedom. It was both glorious and frightening. Everyone wanted to resume some kind of normality but we’ve gotten so used to staying in, just the act of walking out the door provided pause. It’s a weird new normal.
Outdoor Construction Starts to Reopen
It no longer matters what the last number of your government identification is or if you are male or female, you can now go out of your home in daylight hours when it’s convenient for you seven days a week. Even houses of worship are opening, but with appropriate social distancing. Public works construction projects immediately started filling up with workers, but it was strange seeing them in masks as well as hard hats. Other construction should open in approximately two weeks.
Panama has been very conservative, but to date, we have experienced 344 deaths from a total of 13,837 confirmed cases. A single death is tragic, but it could have been so much worse. The government has a very specific, stepped plan on how Panama will continue to reopen. Dates on when each step will be enacted are based on how the scientific evidence unfolds. We hear all kinds of gossip about when certain restrictions will be lifted, but nothing for sure until it happens. We are always in a bit of limbo. I have to admit it’s a bit wearing waiting and waiting, but Panama is lucky to be in as much control as possible.
Curfews and Limited Numbers
There are still a lot of restrictions. Absolute quarantine was replaced by a curfew from 7:00 pm to 5:00 am. Swimming pools are allowed to open with limited participants depending on the pool’s size. Air conditioners can now be cleaned and the mining of rock has been reopened. Masks are mandatory and all schools, including universities, are closed. Sports areas can open to 25% capacity and individual residential buildings are implementing their guidelines, such as limiting people in elevators and gymnasiums. All businesses must have a health committee and provide face masks, hand sanitizers and the ability to wash hands often with soap that lathers.
Now that South America has become the current epicenter for COVID-19, especially in Brazil, air traffic has been impacted at Tocumen International Airport in Panama City. Currently, our airport is scheduled to open June 22, but nothing is actually guaranteed and much depends on incoming flights and outgoing destinations.
There is simply no way to even guess at a solid time for when air travel might resume. There is a great deal of concern about a second wave of COVID-19 cases, especially in South America and Mexico and if that occurs, Tocumen will not reopen or will be shut down again to eliminate a second spike. Since many people coming to Panama are retirees, they are being encouraged to postpone travel until fall.
Humanitarian Flights Out
There have been a few humanitarian flights from Panama City to the United States, including one by Spirit Airlines leaving tomorrow for Ft. Lauderdale. A June 10th flight to Washington DC is sold out and there aren’t any other flights scheduled. Other humanitarian flights were carried out by United and Copa Airlines in May and June. The US Department of States continues to have a Level 4 Health Advisory about travel to Panama which is “Do Not Travel”.
It has been difficult for some parts of Panama to completely embrace the quarantine because there are so few cases of the virus outside of Panama City. For example, Nueva Gorgona, located fifty minutes from the capital has had only three identified cases and only two in Coronado, just ten minutes more away from the city. But, of course, the quarantine has kept those numbers low.
Price Reductions Everywhere
Online shopping has become much more accepted in Panama and the experience has been upgraded during this downtime for retailers. Furniture stores including Home Center, Kennedy Home, Econoprecios and Furniture City all now have robust online offerings and plenty of marked down prices. Lumicentro, the lighting giant has a new online shopping experience and the Do It centers will accept online orders with curbside collection. Now is definitely a time to buy considering the retail stores are anxious to start making sales. Non-essential retail openings are in block three—or at least two weeks away.
LifePlus, an upscale furniture store in Panama City boasts on its website they have implemented every possible precaution and are “following a strict protocol regarding schedules and measuring to protect both the customer and the LifePlus team.”
Furniture stores are not the only sector implementing COVID-19 sales. Currently, there are great developer financing and other incentives to help restart the economy and real estate sales.
Royal Palm, the ocean-facing residential tower in Neve Gorgona has developer financing as low as less than one percent, depending on the unit. That, coupled with the fact there aren’t a lot of units unsold, the developer is anxious to close out the building. I guess we could say thank-you COVID-19, but I won’t.
For the Independent Senior Living @ Generation Tower units, pre-construction pricing begins at $185,000. Since that tower is in Costa del Este, I’m pretty sure you won’t see anything under $200,000 again in that upscale community. Only four floors in Generation Tower are for senior living and with a dual long- and short-term rental permit, the building provides a great revenue stream with on-site property management and an impressive list of amenities.
Droning on Endlessly
Casa Bonita, on the beach just outside Panama City, is almost completely sold and the remaining condos are priced for close-out. Developer financing is also available.
Other projects such as Arcadia, also in Costa del Este and Uptown in Panama City come with attractive add ons, including furniture packs and tax abatements. I’d love to chat with you about investment, residential and retirement properties in Panama. I can drone on endlessly about on-site property management, return on investment, which project comes with health insurance and planned activities, anything about lifestyles in Panama, which section of the country might be best for you personally—you get the idea. I’ve been in quarantine for a long time. I’ve even learned how to cook and do yoga online! Just reach out and I’ll provide a time to discuss!