Dozens of festivalgoers still stranded at Panama's Tribal Gathering festival after coronavirus lockdown

Dozens of festivalgoers and workers are still stranded at the site of Panama’s Tribal Gathering Festival over a month on from a coronavirus-enforced lockdown.

Tribal Gathering was held between February 29 and March 15 this year on a beach site on the north coast of the Central American country, but the festival was put on lockdown for a minimum of eight days on March 15 as Panama declared a state of emergency over the coronavirus outbreak.

The strict measure meant that many festivalgoers and crew either missed or had their original flights home cancelled. While some were able to re-book flights out of Panama, further flight cancellations and shortages — as well as reported strained communication with embassies in Panama — meant that a significant number of attendees were left stranded at the Tribal Gathering site for days and weeks after the festival had ended.

Any festivalgoers who had been hoping to return home soon were dealt a further blow last week when Panama’s flight ban was extended until May 22.

A new Vice documentary (which you can watch above) provides footage shot inside the festival site as the lockdown came into effect, while a report by The Guardian late last week highlighted a group of 30 British workers and Tribal Gathering volunteers who are still stranded in a makeshift camp at the site.

Speaking to The Guardian, festival volunteer Peter Grant said that the British embassy in Panama had initially offered buses to Panama City but with no guarantee of being able to get a flight home.

“At the time the beach was the safer option for us, and we were never offered those buses again,” he said. “The festival organisers were great. They were delivering food and provided us with big tents to shelter in. There was also running water.”

Grant said that it then rained nonstop for days, causing sewage problems. Further attempts to reach out to the embassy resulted in them being given “the same options every time, saying ‘hold tight’ or giving us expensive hotel options in Panama City with no means of getting there. And there were no options for flights home.

“We’ve faced bureaucracy from Panamanian officials, too. You need permits to move around and they don’t really want Europeans going into the city.”

A spokesperson for The Foreign Office told The Guardian that it had helped 85 people return to the UK. “We are in regular contact with members of the group remaining at Tribal Gathering. We have provided details of available accommodation and have offered safe passage letters to assist in moving there.”