MINSA makes it official: all Carnival celebrations are off

How much of a break will the Transito cops get this year? Surely some, but not all that much. Despite the ban on big parties and culecos, a lot of people will head to cottages or family or friends’ homes in the Interior. The big jam headed toward Las Tablas is likely to be the most reduced of all of this. Archive photo of Carnival traffic headed west from La Chorrera before the epidemic hit by Eric Jackson.

It should have been a no-brainer…

by Eric Jackson

With Panama’s fourth COVID wave still well underway — this year the more contagious but less deadly omicron strain — it should come as no surprise that Carnival would have to be called off again.

A no-brainer? Do we have somebody accusing our political elites and tourism investors of having brains?

Really, though, most such folks do understand. Just as do the hardly educated campesinos know about agricultural diseases leading to painful decisions to lose crops or cull herds and who draw the connection to human epidemics, actually. The young and reckless, the gambling addicts, the political fanatics in medical denial, those willing to risk all to save a failing business? Those latter we also do have, and it’s for fear of them that a bunch of politicians wanted to shift the onus of Carnival’s cancellation onto someone else.

Would the mayor of Penonome want to be accused of causing the business hit of no Water Carnival again this year? Mayor Paula María González was issuing no decrees, hinting that the festivities might have to be called off but expressing fear that if she issued a decree at odds with word from on high it might be illegal. The city council bluntly demanded cancellation for this year. The mayors of Aguadulce and Nata banned this year’s Carnival pursuant to their own local powers.

In Las Tablas, site of the nation’s traditionally biggest party, the mayor called for a Carnival ban but waited for the national government to impose it. Business is terrible and won’t get better anytime soon, such that no politician wants to be accused of destroying local business just because of an epidemic in which most people who caught the virus didn’t die. Surely SOMEBODY will run for office in 2024 on a platform of accusing his or her opponent of needless panic that closed businesses for good. 

At almost the last moment, considering the purchases and permits that Carnival businesses need in anticipation of the usual rush, the Ministry of Health came down with a decree on January 27. No dancing, music, water spray, parades or crowds between Friday, February 25 and Sunday, March 6. That includes the traditional Carnival days, and also the Carnavalitos celebrated the weekend afterward in some places. Forget it, unless you have the political connections to ignore the decree and are that stupid. The party is off, with nearly a month’s notice.

Will people go en masse to the beaches and mountains anyway? There is bound to be some of that, but both officially and unofficially the next few weeks will partly determine how much. An uptick in the epidemic may prompt futher official restrictions, and surely would keep a lot of people from leaving their homes without a strong need to do so. A diminishing plague may convince people that it’s safe to go somewhere. Stay tuned.



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night oil