When we went into strict quarantine for the second time, it was spirit-crushing. We had just started to taste a little freedom when we were quickly put back into not being able to go out, except for three days a week for a couple of hours each day. Women could go out on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and men on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Everyone was home all day on Sundays, but, on August 24th, we were given a bit of a reprieve. Forget complaining about wearing masks or social distancing—Panamanians are not questioning those rules—but small steps toward more normalcy have been wildly welcomed.
We have a curfew from 7:00 pm until 5:00 am, Monday through Friday. Sundays remain a day of total quarantine with curfew starting on Saturdays at 7:00 pm and lasting until Monday mornings at 5:00 am. Everyone hustles to make sure supplies such as groceries and maybe a bottle or two of wine are secured before we all turn into pumpkins at 7:00 pm on Saturday! There are still police checkpoints and we must adhere to “woman” and “man” days, but now we can be out all day on “our” days—until 7:00 pm.
Who Needs Keratin?
I became hopeful we were moving in a less restricted way when President Laurentino “Nito” Cortizo gave an address to the Panamanian people and mentioned the word “keratin”! Keratin, after all, is used in salons to de-frizz hair, so I figured he might have been taking some internal heat at home! It’s not important who convinced him of the benefits of keratin, but hair salons and barbershops just reopened, along with some private and public construction, non-governmental organizations (NGO’s), mining of non-metals, car repair shops, technical services and small scale fishing.
Inequalities Keep Numbers High
Because the numbers remain high, schools are not physically open, restaurants are for only carry-out and delivery, bars are closed, and some out-lying providences remain in strict quarantine. There are no sports or large gatherings. Panama has always been one of the most aggressive countries instituting policies that should have stemmed the spread of the virus, but because Panama continues to have wealth inequities, citizens who live in poverty are impacted at a much higher rate.
Education in Panama also has inequities and with all instruction virtual, many of the less fortunate have dropped out because of not having devices or the internet. To combat this, the government is offering classes on television. Most Panamanians have televisions and it is not dependent on the internet so students can now just watch television for their instruction. Food is still being handed out as well as other necessities including soap hand sanitizers. Hospitals remain strained but highly functional.
The Airport Is Opening
But, things in Panama seem better now—as if we have turned some magic corner. People smile and seem more hopeful. After months of extending the deadline on reopening Tocumen International Airport, it is now solidly scheduled to open August 28. At first, only Panamanians and those with established residency will be allowed to take advantage of the reopening, but this certainly a great first step.
Copa Airlines announced it will offer flights to 11 destinations in eight countries including Miami, New York, Washington DC and Mexico City, in North America; San José and Santo Domingo, in Central America and the Caribbean, and Quito, Guayaquil, Sao Paulo and Santiago de Chile, in South America. There will be flights welcomed into Panama City and additional destinations are scheduled to be added weekly if things continue to go better with COVID-19. Negative swab tests no older than 48-hours will need to be presented before boarding and some foreign nationals won’t be allowed to fly. A 14-day quarantine will need to be followed upon arrival.
If you are flying in or out of Tocumen you will notice things will be different. When you arrive at the airport your temperature will be checked, and passengers will be required to wear a mask and stand at least six feet apart. Every transaction such as printing boarding passes or checking passports will be touch-less. When boarding the plane every passenger will be given a “sanitary pack” with alcohol wipes, a mask and other tools to clean further your individual space on the plane.
Construction Sites Have Opened
The airport opening is a big deal and a huge boost to spirits. Panama wants to welcome visitors from around the world. After months of closure, interest in moving to and investing in Panama has never been higher. Real estate developers have been able to reopen some of their construction sites as opposed to just government projects.
Coronado Golf Offering Units Under $160,000
The government has implemented various tax incentives on real estate and developers have also been given reduced rates so they can offer very attractive developer financing. This unusual lockdown has allowed developers time to create beneficial ways to make offerings more attractive. For example, the luxury high-rise building Coronado Golf has essentially been closed-out for years. Nonetheless, it was noticed there were a few units left unsold after the project was handed over to the Homeowners Association. Those units are now being offered at tremendous savings.
Consider a residence overlooking the Pacific for less than $160,000. It is a smaller unit with about 1,100 square feet, but the way it is laid out, it can be turned into a two-bedroom condominium with two full baths and two balconies. No real estate tax is still in effect with 4% developer financing with 20% down. Property managers are available in the building to handle renting.
Ocean Facing Coronado Bay
Coronado Bay has been under the Homeowner’s Association for even longer and there is a four-bedroom unit that, for whatever reason, has remained unsold and ready to be built out for new owners. Four percent financing with 20% down is still available as well as some other odds and ends spaces going for tremendous prices.
Both of these buildings in Coronado boast a long list of amenities such as, multiple pools, spa, social areas, stunning views and a full gymnasium. Coronado Golf also provides a golf and tennis membership. The residential towers are located in the beach and gated community of Coronado, located just 50 minutes from Panama City. These units are easily rented, especially in the high season when “snow birds” come for three or four months. Three grocery stores and great restaurants are located close by.
Four Percent On 20% Down
Great financing at 4% or less is on the table for everything from the new Pacific Ocean facing Royal Palm residences in Gorgona to the stunning 4,000 square foot homes of Matisse in Costa del Este. Casa Bonita, the residences that share the amenities of the five-star Westin Resort at Playa Bonita also have some units that have not sold for a variety of reasons are now being offered at shocking prices.
A Silver Lining
If you are looking for the silver lining of this pandemic, it might be that the world has slowed down a little and opportunities are presenting that would not have manifested otherwise. These prices are a silver lining for me and a few lucky clients. I would love to show you around when the airport is fully open or simply discuss with you the various options. These special units will not last long.