PANAMA CITY (Reuters) – Panama moved to require all public officials to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly coronavirus testing, the health minister said on Wednesday, as the Central American country grappled with a surge in coronavirus cases.
Health Minister Luis Francisco Sucre announced in a news conference that Panamanian President Laurentino Cortizo had signed the decree, which mandated public functionaries receive three doses of a coronavirus vaccine or provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test each Monday.
“If there is something that cannot be stopped, it is the government institutions that have to continue to function,” Sucre said, adding the measure would take effect on Jan. 28.
Panama registered 4,372 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday.
At least 6 million vaccine doses have been administered in Panama to its population of about 4.2 million people, according to government data.
About 90% of the target population, or those above 12 years old, has received at least one vaccine dose and 81% has had a second dose.
The government last month said it would cut the rollout time for booster doses in half, after the country detected its first case of the Omicron variant.
More than 400,000 booster doses have been administered.
(Reporting by Milagro Vallecillos in Panama City, writing by Laura Gottesdiener; Editing by Himani Sarkar)