Around 1,700 illegal migrants heading to the United States are being held in a jungle camp by Panama authorities after several cases of the new coronavirus were detected among them, an official source said.
They are being kept in La Penita, close to the Colombian border, in facilities designed to accommodate around 200 people.
“Seventeen migrants have been infected with the new coronavirus,” the official source said on condition of anonymity.
The infected people have already been removed from the camp.
Red Cross personnel had to leave the area to be put in quarantine after being in contact with a local police officer who died from the coronavirus, said Walter Cotte, regional director of the International Federation of Red Cross for the Americas.
In Panama, which has 4,273 coronavirus infections and 120 deaths, migrants are treated at three temporary border posts where the government, UNICEF and the Red Cross provide them with water, food and medical care.
Despite the dangers, the border between Colombia and Panama has for years become a corridor for illegal immigration, mainly from Haiti, Cuba and Venezuela, but also more distant countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal, Congo and Cameroon.