The world has been stricken by a pandemic the likes never seen in the past, and because of how globalized and interconnected modern humans are, it is the first time a pandemic has reached each corner of the world. There are only small comparisons that can be done with past pandemics and actions taken to mitigate their damaging effects. With this current pandemic, there where lessons learned from the likes of SARS and MERS, all of which are related, fortunately at the time of that pandemic, the world was far different, and travel was much more limited.
Now I am tasked with attempting to revive the tourism industry in a time when it is far from advisable, considering the death toll that has been amounting and the risks involved not only from the people who benefit from this economic activity, but also from everyone who lives in the surrounding areas and is not benefited from tourism.
Therefore, the question is which is the least of two evils, and which one will benefit the greater good?
Primarily, the only way to reactivate the tourism industry is by reaching herd immunity, be it by way of vaccines or by allowing a total collapse of the country’s health system, so that by way of death the country achieves herd immunity. By reducing the measures and allowing unrestricted movement of people, has only worsened the current situation, which has in turn led to collapsing health systems globally and in Panama, the thinning of the capacity of the health system to cope with the increasing demand for healthcare.
Unfortunately, the first step to take, must be to reintroduce the quarantine measures, demanding work from home to those who can and limiting the food and beverage business to take out only.
While these measures are taking place, the government in cooperation with the public service provides, should guarantee, water, food, electricity, shelter, and access to the internet. While preparing the undertaking of procuring, receiving, and delivering vaccines to the entire population of the country.
The delivery of vaccines should be done in order increasing population destiny, considering that most of the entertainment and tourism takes place where the least amount of people live. Allowing for business to reopen as regions reach at least a 70 % vaccination rate which should translate to theoretical herd immunity.
As the population is inoculated with the vaccine, and the trend for new cases shows a steady decline, region should be ready for a transition from government welfare to private enterprise. It is crucial to provide a reasonable transitional period, for all businesses will not be able to operate at capacity and much less hire all staff. The government with cooperation of the private sector should be informed of who is employed and who is still unemployed and continue providing welfare for at least three further months, which is similar the severance package that all Panamanian formal employees receive when laid off work.
This public welfare transitional period allows for the unemployed to seek employment while being able to bring food to the table and by providing welfare spendable in stores, it allows for business to start operating and initiating a chain reaction that would bring economic growth.
As businesses start steadily increasing their operations, people will have the resources to invest in small scale leisure activities, in a still restricted manner, for herd immunity has yet to be achieved. All businesses should follow the established health guidelines preventing resurgence of new cases.
By this step, new Covid19 cases, should be rare. Herd immunity has been achieved and restrictions should have been completely lifted and public welfare should have seized. All form of business activity should be allowed, and Panamá should reopen all borders to allow for an influx of tourist. All international tourists must show proof of being COVID19 negative before entering the country. Since Panama should have achieved herd immunity, there would be no need for quarantining incoming tourist.
Even though all businesses are allowed, and all borders have reopened, unfortunately, because of Covid19, there would still be high unemployment and high crime rate, since Panama is a globalized economy, and the world economy has contracted significantly. It is the duty of the government to do counter cycle investment in maintaining existing and building new infrastructure. This would mitigate the damages caused by unemployment, create direct and indirect jobs, and allow for money to flow to keep businesses afloat.
The world has officially reopened, and since Panama focused on doing counter cycle investment, the country should be positioned as a secure place for travel and leisure and do business. The focus of the government is to return to a state of non-emergency. Priority would be to rebuild the education health system, while increasing investment in the police force. Although I am against large government, initially to avoid social unrest and the rise of organized crime, the police forces must be strengthened.
The government must control the speed at which Covid19 spreads to prevent the collapse of the health system.
By delivering the vaccines to low density regions, internal tourism can be reactivated faster.
Counter cycle investment in public infrastructure allows to mitigate unemployment and reduces the chances of social unrest. Tourists like to feel comfortable and safe.
A safe and secure environment makes local and international tourist feel safe, which can only benefit the tourism industry.
University of Richmond Study for COVID19 Resurgence
World Health Organization
UNESCO COVID19 Mitigation Protocol
Ilinois Department of Health Covid19 Mitigation Protocols
Panamanian Tourism Authority – Private Public Alliance Plan
Panamanian Deparment of State – Travel Safety Protocols
U.S. Embassy Panama – Travel Safety Protocols
WEF – Post Covid Latin America