An early start for the traditional long weekend. The legal Carnival holiday is Tuesday, February 16, with a half day off the next day (Ash Wednesday). As usual, the early rush from the city began on the morning of Thursday the 11th– and ran into this huge three-hour-or-more wait at the checkpoint in Capira. Unattributed driver photo from inside this jam, published on Twitter.
Beware: traffic nightmares, super-spreader events, cops on the beaches, no pageantry
by Eric Jackson
The conflicting advice from his Trump-influenced business crowd — Panama’s Chamber of Commerce is essentially advising that the epidemic is fake news and for the sake of the economy everything must reopen now — and anyone paying any attention to the public health situation has President Cortizo, through people in his government, sending out mixed messages.
Many things ARE reopening, but with social distancing restrictions. Restaurants, for example.
The usual annual festivities are not happening this year in Las Tablas, Penonome and elsewhere — but look for some of the usual drunks and fools to show up at the usual places, and for the police to break up the crowds and bust people for drinking in public.
The beaches are open from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays — but police and the SINAPROC disaster relief agency say that they will be on them to prevent crowds. When you look at the Thursday traffic jam, you will understand how difficult it will be to prevent crowds on the beaches and to suppress alcohol sales and consumption. In Anton the municipal authorities say that they are mounting a special effort to prevent crowds at the beaches on Carnival Tuesday.
For the holiday weekend, checkpoints have multiplied. It’s not perfectly clear the standards they will apply. Surely you don’t want to show up at one drunk, or displaying an illegal weapon, or with the car reeking of marijuana or cocaine smoke. They may want to know if you have a place in the Interior where you are going, and probably will look askance at vague suggestions that you will hang out at the beach.
The rules vary from place to place. It’s a 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. curfew every day in general, 10 p.m to 4 a.m starting on Monday the 15th. Carnival Saturday and Sunday will be “total quarantine” days that might also pose some enforcement issues for the police. But then, given the worsening economic problems right across almost every sector in Panama, fine collection may be an important Carnival weekend event this year.
[Editor’s note: Within a few minutes of this being posted, police took down the Capira checkpoint and announced a change in curfew hours beginning on Monday the 15th. The story has been edited to reflect that.]
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