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travelling to panama during coronavirus

Traveling To And From Panama During Coronavirus

Kent Davis:
Hey everybody so thank you all for tuning in, whether you’re catching us live or you’re catching the replay. We’ve got Matthew Marks here. Matthew is, I would say our top salesperson, definitely in the city. And if we cut off the year, he would win salesperson of the year. So Matthew’s having a rocking third quarter, is it third quarter still? Congratulations, Matthew. So the idea for today is we are going to talk about Matthew’s recent trip to the US so Matthew made a quick jump over to, where were you, Matthew?

Matthew Marx:
I went to South Florida. I was in Fort Lauderdale and Miami.

Kent Davis:
Cool. So you flew out of Panama city and you were in Florida for a little bit and he came back. I want to talk all about that. Before I do and for those of you just tuning in or catching this after we do the live, Monday’s a big day in Panama, Monday the 28th. What do we have Matthew? I’m looking at my other screen here. It sounds like the malls are going to open back up, right?

Matthew Marx:
Yeah. The malls are opening up. It looks like, yeah, I’m actually just looking at it right now, myself. The malls are opening up. Restaurants are supposed to be opening up along with fondas. I know that’s a favorite of yours and mine. So I mean just about everything, it seems is opening up even national flights, you know, if you want to fly from Panama City to David or to Bocas del Toro, those are supposed to be opening up on the 28th as well. According to this schedule.

Kent Davis:
$99 flights round trip to Bocas del Toro. If Air Panama keeps that rate for the next two years, Panama will finally be on the map for really cool like seven days, ten-day itinerary, because before it was what like 250 bucks for a 45-minute flight. But now Air Panama $99.

Matthew Marx:
And you would hear a lot of people here in the city say, why would I spend $250 to go to Bocas del toro when I can take that and go to Miami. It’s even less to go to Medellin or Bogota and that’s all dollars leaving the country.

Kent Davis:
Yes, exactly. That’s good news. The 28th guys, we’ve got, I’m looking at the other screen here, national aviation, we’ve got beaches and parks. Our racetrack, if you just dying to get to the racetrack, although not with the public. The really interesting day is the 12th that’s on that day is when our international airports officially open to everybody other than Copa. Copa has had a nice little almost a monopoly on flights for the last month or so, but now United, American, Avianca, and all those guys will be back. And Matt, you mentioned the new presidential decree. So what’s the deal. Now, when people come back come into Panama for the first time who can come in, and what do they have to do?

Matthew Marx:
Yeah, so before October 12th, if you want to fly from today until October 12th the only people allowed into the country are going to be residents and also citizens. I file under that because of my friend, the nation’s visa. I’m a full-time resident here in Panama. And so last Friday I was able to fly back in from Miami. All I needed that time was just a negative COVID test from within 96 hours. You know, a 96-hour window of my flight. I showed that to the check-in counter and they let me through, and then when I arrived at Panama City, they actually checked it again at the airport. They sent us to another gate and we had to do a whole medical test before being allowed to go through.

Kent Davis:
Oh, wow. Okay. So walk us through the whole process. So you flew out of Panama, what, like three weeks ago, something like that?

Matthew Marx:
Yeah, it was the 10th. I flew out. So about two weeks ago now. Flying out was extremely easy, you know, they had no problem letting me leave. It was, it was coming back. What I did was with CVS, I was able to schedule an appointment for a drive-through test online on CVS. So you do their drive-through with the pharmacist walking you through the whole process of doing it. You drop your test into a special box that they have for Covid-19 tests. And literally, two days later they emailed me the results. It was very easy and it was free. You know, I’ve heard people saying it’s $100 to $200 a test. The test was 100% free. No, not one penny out of my pocket.

Matthew Marx:
With that I printed it and I brought that to the airport. They, checked it before, allowing me to check-in and then I went to the gate and then just at the gate was a normal process waiting to board. They’re very concerned about skin to skin contact. You know, they never checked the ticket, they just scanned it, and they didn’t ask to hand it over or anything like that. No contact. When you board the flight with Copa, they handed us a sanitary bag that had a bottle of water, a wipe to wipe down your armrest, and a mask in case you wanted to change your mask during the flight. So COPA, kudos to them. They’re on top of everything. The inflight meal was pretty good, although it was just a sandwich that was sealed in a bag. So in that way, no one on the flight crew is touching your food. I was very impressed with the COPA process.

Matthew Marx:
And then the boarding process actually took a little longer. Cause now they’re boarding by rows. So they started from the back of the plane, you know, row 32 to 29, you can board now. So that way you don’t have a load of people getting on the plane at the same time. And then when we were leaving the plane, it was the same process. They started with row one and then they went all the way to the back of the plane. So that way you don’t have everyone standing in the aisle, you know like we used to do everyone fighting position to get off the plane first. Once we arrived in Panama city when you leave the flight, they sent us to the gate.

Matthew Marx:
I believe it was 103 and that’s towards the end of the terminal. And we all had to go down there, you sit in rows. And that’s where the doctors from MINSA – the ministry of health, they ask you to fill out your paperwork and then they take your temperature. They check your test again. They gave me a card and they said you have to sign a document that says you will not violate quarantine for 14 days at the risk of a $50,000 fine. And they call every single day to make sure I’m home to ask me how I’m feeling if I’m experiencing any symptoms. And then they also have that option of actually coming to the door and knocking on the door to make sure that I’m home. That hasn’t happened yet. I don’t know if it will happen, but you know, just the threat of a large fine of $50,000 is enough to keep me home for a few days.

Kent Davis:
And you said they are checking in on you every day?

Matthew Marx:
Every single day. They call randomly and this morning they called me around 10 o’clock and yesterday they called me around two o’clock. So yeah, it’s different times of the day.

Kent Davis:
How was the airline? Was it very full the flight you came in on flying back?

Matthew Marx:
Well, flying back to Miami, I was in row 10 and every row in front of me, we had the middle seat open for somebody. Behind me, those rows were pretty full. And I imagine that’s just because they were flying together. But flying back the flight, I mean, I don’t think it was half full. There were plenty of rows available. In fact, in the two emergency exit rows, I was the only person in those12 seats. I was the only person there.

Kent Davis:
Got it. Yeah, guys if you’re watching this what Matthew’s going through right now in the quarantine, which is how many days, 14 days, that’s going to end. So there’s a new decree that came out last night. Matthew walk us through the new decree if you don’t mind.

Matthew Marx:
Sure. It basically on October 12th, you can fly back into Panama and that’s anyone, that’s tourists, residents, and citizens. You can fly into Panama, but you must have a negative COVID test from within that 48 hours now of your flight. So get that COVID test and as long as you have a negative test, they’re going to let you onto the flight and you can fly into Panama. They’ll check your test again, once you get here, but there’s zero quarantine. Now, if you do not have a negative COVID test, they’ve put in a clause to cover that as well, where you can pay out of your own dime when you arrive here in Panama for the rapid test. And if that’s negative, you can go on your way. If it’s positive, they’re going to ask you to quarantine for seven days in a MINSA approved hotel.

Matthew Marx:
Okay, cool. Yeah, no, that’s pretty cut and dry smart on the side of the ministry of health, I think, and on the tourism authority. And you know, it’s like, hey, come on in, come on back. And what do you see as far as people coming in? Have you gotten some confirmation that people are going to come out like clients and stuff?

Matthew Marx:
Absolutely I’m seeing a lot of pent-up demand. People are just, they’re ready to travel. The flights are extremely inexpensive right now. I booked another flight and it’s a $175 round trip on Copa. So you mentioned, you know, they’ve had a monopoly, but they’re not taking advantage as flights are extremely inexpensive. And a lot of the people I’ve been speaking to for the last six, seven months, they’re ready to get on that flight. People are booking flights for around the middle of October all the way through the end of the year.

Kent Davis:
Darn right. Yeah. Maybe some of that massive debt that Panama is taking on is still very fiscally conservative compared to other countries. We’ve still got room to take other people’s money and spend it on things. Hopefully, some of that is getting deployed in the form of subsidies to the airlines to keep the prices low enough. I’m sure Copa and Nico are talking every day. I mean, things are looking up, man. You know, Matthew, one of our salespeople, we’ve got coverage in Pedasi, Panama city, the beach, the mountains, and everybody has confirmed clients coming, myself included. We’ve got some guys coming to look at hotels, buildings for sale, so stuff is happening. And I think that Panama taking such a conservative approach over these last five or six months, along with the mask culture, everybody’s got their masks on, you know, the police are still out for better for worse, MINAS is around and watching, you know, the 28th is when life kind of resumed.

Kent Davis:
So everyone will be paying close attention to the rate of transmission and the new cases and all of that. But these last five or six months of being super conservative could bode very well for us compared to Europe and the States, which you know, that combined with places like Columbia and other parts of Latin America are not doing so well. It could be very interesting to Panama.

Kent Davis:
So, Ruben, you asked some questions earlier, sorry for not getting to you. How exactly can an airline establish if a COVID test is fake or not? Is there a seal or anything Matthew or are they just sort of used to looking at these?

Matthew Marx:
Yeah, mine had just the letterhead from CVS. Gosh, I should have held onto it. And it is, I mean, it’s got all the scientific data on there. Could you fake it? Yeah, you probably could. The question then would be, is it going to get past the doctor here once you arrive at Panama City.

Kent Davis:
Yeah, exactly.

Matthew Marx:
Is the juice worth the squeeze on that one?

Kent Davis:
Yeah, totally. It’s like, whatever you’re already in Panama. Maybe just trying to avoid quarantining. Another question from Ruben, would buyers be able to fly to Panama for a weekend?

Matthew Marx:
As long as they have their negative test to come in there is no quarantine period and leaving the country, you don’t need a test unless where you’re heading is requiring a test. But when I boarded the flight here to return to Miami, there was no problem. You know, as far as getting into the United States, that was actually extremely easy. You know, it was like business as usual on that side of things.

Kent Davis:
Okay. Cool. Well, Matt, thank you, man. Thank you so much for joining us for sharing your experience. And hopefully, this is valuable to people. Thank you guys for tuning in.

Matthew Marx:
One more point, if anyone is a tourist, trying to come into the country before the 12th, don’t do it. Even if you can buy the flight online. I saw two people in Miami that were able to get past the ticket counter and when they tried to board the flight, they were rejected because they did not have a residency at Panama and the Copa officials would not allow them on the flight. So you know, they were very upset. They were able to purchase their flight. They didn’t understand why, but if you’re not going to be allowed in the country, COPA’s not going to allow you on the flight.

Kent Davis:
Exactly. Yeah. Whatever you got two more weeks. We’ll leave a light on for you. Well, yeah. Thanks for your insight. And thank you, guys. All for tuning in. Have a great day. Bye-bye.

 

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