All you need to know about the new Coronavirus (COVID-19)
What is a coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses, some of which only affect animals, while others can also cause disease in humans. The most recently discovered coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, causes the COVID-19 disease, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus, which became known in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.
Common symptoms include pain and discomfort, nasal congestion, nasal discharge, sore throat or diarrhea. The virus is transmitted through small droplets in the nose or mouth that spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. Some people get a fever and may cough.
What is the best way to respond to the Coronavirus?
Be Safe from the coronavirus infection by reducing the spread of the infection and your contact with harmful bacteria.
The World Health Organization suggests these 7 steps:
- Wash your hands frequently
- Avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose
- Cover your cough with the inside of your elbow or a tissue
- Avoid crowded places
- Stay at home if you feel unwell – even if it’s a slight fever and cough
- If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early but call by phone first
- Stay aware of the latest information
Be smart by staying informed about the latest updates by using trusted sources of information. The World Health Organization is regularly releasing updates and situation reports whilst national and local public health authorities are also issuing relevant and helpful advice.
Be kind by supporting others. Do not stigmatize or discriminate against certain groups because of their ethnic background. In many contexts, persons who migrate to work, study or join their families are in good health and form a critical part of national communities, including health-care systems. Therefore, migrants, regardless of their legal status, should not be stigmatized or associated with the risk of importing diseases. In most cases, there is no direct connection to disease just because people may be migrants.
Be considerate of the needs of others and what you can do to help. Remember that, whilst you may not be a member of the most vulnerable populations for the virus, you can still play a part in reducing its spread by following the steps above.
How can COVID-19 spread among migrants?
Conditions surrounding the migration process, not the individuals, such as barriers to health services, poor living and working conditions and exploitation, that can pose health risks. It is important that governments take a migrant-inclusive approach to ensure that all migrants regardless of their legal status, and other non-nationals, are considered in public health planning, response and messaging. This means: the use of adequate language, culturally appropriate recommendations and treatment modalities, and ensuring that all migrants, in regular or irregular situations, can access health services, without fear of stigma, arrest or deportation, among other things.
How has misinformation affected the outbreak?
“Our greatest enemy right now is not the coronavirus itself. It’s fear, rumours and stigma. And our greatest assets are facts, reason and solidarity,” according to Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization.
From a public health perspective, the risk of exclusion and stigmatization may result in migrants hiding in their symptoms rather than seeking treatment. This puts everyone at risk of getting sick. We can all play a role in identifying and challenging misinformation online, whilst sharing information from trustworthy sources, in order to reduce panic, xenophobia and the spread of misinformation.
With the advent of the virus in Panama, the government implemented different ways of communication in case you have been exposed or had contact with positive people to COVID-19. Also the line 169 is enabled for responses regarding to the virus, whether you have traveled recently or had contact with a patient; similarly, the R.O.S.A (Operational Automatic Health Response) platform was created, https://rosa.innovacion.gob.pa, which is a 24-hour digital medical office made to attend cases with respiratory symptomatology and receive a medical assessment.
For additional information, follow the official accounts of the Ministry of Health (MINSA) on the main social media and on the website www.minsa.gob.pa. Otherwise, direct query calls are answered through the WhatsApp number (+507) 6997-1234.
Vaccination process against COVID-19
Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe?
All vaccines go through several phases of a clinical trial before their use in the population can be approved. These trials are intended to ensure the vaccines’ safety and effectiveness, or their ability to protect against a disease.
The vaccines that are being developed against COVID-19 are following these same phases and will only be approved for use in the general population once their safety has been demonstrated to regulatory authorities.
Are the COVID-19 vaccines effective?
The COVID-19 vaccines that have been approved for use in some countries have been evaluated in clinical trials, which have provided information on how effective they are at preventing the disease. Local regulatory authorities analyze this data to give their approval. Only those vaccines that have been shown to be effective in preventing the disease are approved for use in the population.
How do the vaccines work?
All vaccines are designed to teach the body's immune system to safely recognize and block the virus that causes COVID-19. None of the approved vaccines contain the live virus that causes COVID-19.
Which vaccines have been approved?
The World Health Organization (WHO) has approved for emergency use the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine and the two versions of the AstraZeneca / Oxford vaccine.
As of February 2021, Panama has been using the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine, has recently approved the use of the AstraZeneca / Oxford vaccine, and is in negotiations to acquire the Sputnik V vaccine.
Which vaccine should I get?
The Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) encourages people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 with any vaccine offered to them by the local health authorities at the time they meet the established criteria.
Can I choose the vaccine that I want?
So far, in many countries, people will not be able to choose the type or brand of vaccine they want. This, however, could change when the use of other vaccines is approved and the supply increases.
What if I don't want to receive the specific type of vaccine that I am being offered?
It will be up to the individual to decide if they want to be vaccinated or not, and if they want to accept the type of vaccine offered by the local health authorities.
Is it safe to get vaccinated if the health authorities in my country only offer a vaccine that is not approved by the World Health Organization?
Any immunization process, regardless of whether it is approved by WHO, must be accompanied by the informed consent of the recipient.
Can I return to life as normal after I’ve been vaccinated?
For now, even after getting the vaccine, you need to stay alert until most of the population is immune. Keep wearing a mask, wash your hands regularly, and maintain physical distancing.
Being vaccinated against COVID-19, along with following preventive measures such as covering your mouth and nose with a mask and maintaining physical distancing, will offer the best protection against COVID-19 for you and those around you.
If I have already had COVID-19 and recovered, do I still need to get vaccinated?
Yes. You must be offered the COVID-19 vaccine regardless of whether you have had the disease before. Getting the vaccine appears to provide more effective protection against the disease. However, those who are currently infected with COVID-19 should postpone vaccination until after their recovery.
What is the vaccination process in Panama?
According to the National Vaccination Plan against COVID-19, as the doses of the vaccines against COVID-19 arrive, Panama will comply with a vaccination process that includes four phases.
Phase 1 comprises front-line health workers and support personnel, and bedridden adults over 60 years of age in nursing homes and family homes.
Phase 2, which includes adults over the age of 60 and people aged 16 to 59 with chronic diseases.
Phase 3 will include the population of indigenous regions, people in high-risk occupations, and incarcerated people.
In Phase 4, the population without chronic diseases aged 16 to 59 will be vaccinated.
The vaccines are paid for by the State and will be offered at no cost to users.
Can foreigners get vaccinated in Panama?
Access to health is a right that does not depend on a person's immigration status. In order to be vaccinated, it is necessary to register for COVID-19 (panamasolidario.gob.pa) vaccination applicant. On this same page, once you have registered, you will be able to verify your vaccination appointment. You can also verify your appointment through the Raisa platform (raisaweb.azurewebsites.net). The Ministry of Health (MINSA) enabled telephone line 177 only to provide details or circuit information that is due to be vaccinated per week.