Friday 3 December 2021

Costa Rica and Panama in times of Coronavirus

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Paying the bills


The worldwide pandemic has devastated the world’s health care systems. Poorer and underdeveloped countries have especially been hit hard by the current health crisis.

Panama has the highest number of COVID-19 infections in Central America

For years relocation organizations have been promoting Panama as a retirement haven. Panama’s drawing card is its low cost of living and perks that it offers retirees. Boquete/David in northwest Panama and Panama City are where most ex-pat retirees choose to live.

However, Costa Rica offers far more areas from which to choose.

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One of the most important factors that influence potential ex-pats to move to another country is the quality of health care that is offered. Good medical care can mark the difference between life and death as we age.

Panama’s health care system has been hit hard by Covid—19. The country, with 4.2 million inhabitants, has the highest number of COVID-19 infections in Central America, with 305,752 accumulated cases and 4,944 deaths (as of January 22, 2021) — almost double that of Costa Rica.

The situation has caused the saturation of hospitals, some of which can no longer receive more patients. The government recently acknowledged the “critical state of the country’s hospital capacity.”

“We are in a critical situation, of collapse. Things are not looking good, ” declared Domingo Moreno, coordinator of the main Panamanian medical union. Furthermore, the increase in cases has ended up exhausting health personnel, who have had to double shifts of up to 16 hours, between transfers and exhausting hours of waiting in hospitals.

The situation is so bad that Panama has even enlisted the help of 220 Cuban doctors despite opposition from the United States. But more help is on the way!

Panama just received the first 12,840 doses of the vaccine from Pfizer / BioNtech against Covid-19, a smaller shipment than expected due to the production problems that the pharmaceutical in Europe as it upgrade the production facility, which is expected to normalize by mid-February.

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Panama is now the second country in Central America to have a vaccine against the new coronavirus, after Costa Rica, which expects more than six million doses from three pharmaceuticals: Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca.

On the other hand, despite having a total of 188,477 confirmed cases and 2,506 deaths (as of January 22, 2021) related to Covid-19, Costa Rica now has the best immunization rate In Latin America.

According to the Our World in Data database from the University of Oxford that analyzed data from January 15 to 17, Costa Rica leads the rate of vaccinating against Covid-19 per 100 inhabitants:

  • Costa Rica 0.49 to January 15
  • Argentina 0.44 to January 15
  • Mexico 0.37 to January 17
  • Brazil 0.01 to January 17
  • Chile 0.01 to January 14

The bottom line is that although Costa Rica is more expensive than Panama its health care system is superior, especially in a time of crisis.

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Regarding the perks that Panama offers its official retirees, the Costa Rican government recently announced a modified version of the country’s former Pensionado Law was proposed to attract more expat retirees.

On September 9, 2020, a new bill called Law to Attract Investors, Rentiers or Rentistas (persons with independent means)  and Pensioners appeared in the official newspaper, La Gaceta. The purpose is to create new perks in order to attract retired people or those interested in living here or investing. See Costa Rica wants to attract foreign pensioners and rentiers

– – – –
Christopher Howard has been conducting monthly relocation/retirement tours and writing retirement guidebooks for more than 30 years. See

He has a #1 relocation/retirement blog at:,  is also the author of the forthcoming 19th edition of “New Golden Door to Retirement and Living in Costa Rica — the official guide to relocation”  and the one-of-a-kind bestselling e-book, “Guide to Costa Rican Spanish,” that can be purchased through Amazon.

Christopher’s most recent book is –“The Costa Rica Chronicles from 1980 on: the good, bad and ugly people and places”— available through and soon

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Christopher Howard
Christopher Howard has lived, worked and played in one of the most magical places on earth for more than 33 years. His love for Central America is so great that he became a citizen of Costa Rica. Howard is the author the perennial best-selling travel/retirement/overseas investment guide book (15 editions), The New Golden Door to Retirement and Living in Costa Rica. He is the only author of any of the guidebooks about Costa Rica who actually lives there full-time. You can reach Howard at

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