Mexican officials are dragging their feet on border closures and coronavirus containment measures, in what critics call a high risk strategy driven by bad memories of a shutdown a decade ago that deepened the country’s recession during the swine flu epidemic, APA reports citing Reuters.
The United States and neighbors in Latin America have suspended flights, banned public gatherings and closed schools.
In Mexico City, however, tens of thousands of music fans rocked out to Guns and Roses at a festival at the weekend. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador also went on tour, hugging surging crowds of supporters and kissing babies.
The gamble is straightforward: Mexico’s economy was stagnating even before the COVID-19 outbreak shuttered factories worldwide and the government has said it wants to limit economic damage by not over-reacting.
Some Mexican scientists, receiving news of Europe’s growing lockdown, South Korea’s widespread testing and global travel bans, are increasingly worried that Mexico’s softly-softly approach could lead to a bigger epidemic down the road.
“I am worried that we end up in a situation like Italy, where measures weren’t taken on time, and the number of cases started to get away from them,” said Rosa Maria del Angel, who heads the Department of Infectomics and Molecular Pathogenesis at Mexico’s National Polytechnic Institute.
In 2009, a new strain of swine flu that emerged in Mexico raised fears of a global pandemic.
Authorities acted swiftly, shutting down public life in the densely populated capital, Mexico City, and swathes of the country. The silent streets foreshadowed scenes today in towns under lockdown from China to Europe and the United States.
The disease was quickly contained and normal life resumed within weeks, but by some estimates the response shaved a percentage point from that year’s economic activity. The economy, already reeling from the global financial crisis, ended 2009 contracted by more than 5%.