Panama: 43 migrants have coronavirus near Colombia border

PANAMA CITY (AP) — The government of Panama said Thursday that 43 migrants have tested positive for the novel coronavirus and 119 others are in quarantine at relief stations near the border with Colombia.

Panama’s national migration office said there have been no deaths among the migrants, 41 of whom are receiving medical care at a shelter in Lajas Blancas. The 119 quarantined migrants had contact with the confirmed cases. Two other migrant cases were detected earlier in the year.

The office did not specify the nationalities of the infected migrants, but they were detected near the Darien border crossing.

Migrants from Africa, Haiti, Cuba and South Asia often travel through the Darien Gap in a bid to reach the United States. The Darien Gap connects Panama and South America, and is a notorious obstacle featuring jungles, deadly snakes and bandits. Because of the dangers of the crossing, migrants often travel in groups.

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The migration office said border closures and travel shutdowns linked to the coronavirus pandemic have left 2,532 migrants stranded in Panama, often at shelters near the border with Colombia or Costa Rica.

Migrants protested weeks ago about poor conditions at the shelters, and Panama pledged to build another shelter in the Darien area with better water and sanitation facilities.

Panama has a total of about 3,800 confirmed coronavirus cases and 256 deaths.

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