‘We Call for Calm’: Mexico’s Restrained Response to the Coronavirus

Written by on March 15, 2020

MEXICO CITY — Earlier than she headed to the soccer recreation this weekend, Gabriela Gómez thought-about the matter of the coronavirus and its transmissibility in crowds.

However she wasn’t going to let fears of a world pandemic stand in the best way of witnessing a particular second: For the primary time for the reason that founding of Mexico’s girls’s skilled league, two of its groups had been taking part in in Mexico Metropolis’s landmark College Olympic Stadium.

“Fear? Sure, there’s fear,” Ms. Gómez mentioned as she sat together with her niece on the concrete bleachers watching Pumas play their crosstown rivals Cruz Azul on Saturday. “However it’s important to have enjoyable.”

Whilst sports activities leagues around the globe suspended their seasons final week, Mexico’s prime soccer league, Liga MX, and its girls’s counterpart, Liga MX Femenil, performed on, making them a uncommon exception amongst a lot of the world’s major sports leagues, and all of its largest soccer leagues.

Liga MX mentioned it was taking its cues from the federal authorities of Mexico, which has thus far adopted a comparatively restrained method to the virus, as compared with different nations within the area.

In america, President Trump has declared a nationwide emergency, and state and native authorities have closed colleges and companies and canceled many massive gatherings and practically all sporting occasions. And in Central America, some governments have imposed more and more restrictive journey and quarantine measures, and banned massive gatherings.

However in Mexico, the place at the very least 53 confirmed instances have been reported, the administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has taken a much more measured method. Its critics have known as it lackadaisical.

Mr. López Obrador and his administration have resisted requires journey restrictions and a suspension of mass gatherings, amongst different measures, saying the federal government doesn’t wish to act rashly, or prematurely.

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On Thursday, a deputy well being minister, Hugo López-Gatell Ramírez, mentioned there was no scientific proof that journey restrictions “can play a related function” within the safety of public well being.

He additionally identified that Mexico was getting ready for a key tourism season coinciding with Easter holidays and spring break, when 1000’s of tourists from North America usually descend on Mexico’s resorts.

“Proscribing worldwide journey to Mexico shouldn’t be deliberate, neither is it being thought-about,” Mr. López-Gatell mentioned.

Mr. López Obrador — who had been scuffling with a stagnant economic system, hovering violence and a sinking approval ranking even before the outbreak — appears to have set the tone for the nation’s response. He has insisted that his authorities is on prime of the matter, and has steered politics are underpinning any criticism of his administration’s method.

He has even ignored Mr. López-Gatell’s suggestion that Mexicans briefly abstain from the custom of greeting one another with hugs and kisses.

“Look, this factor concerning the coronavirus, that you would be able to’t hug,” Mr. López Obrador mentioned at his every day information convention earlier this month. “It’s a must to hug, nothing goes to occur.”

On Saturday, the president posted a video of himself on Twitter that confirmed him wading via a crowd within the state of Guerrero, shaking arms and hugging and kissing admirers, together with kids.

“There’s a pure propensity of the individuals to hug him and kiss him and take selfies,” Mr. López-Gatell mentioned on Thursday, talking of the president. “And he himself is a really beneficiant and affectionate man and in addition hugs.”

As not too long ago as Friday morning, Mr. López-Gatell mentioned the administration would anticipate the suitable second to order extra extreme, and extra widespread, measures to manage the doable unfold of the virus.

“If these interventions are achieved too quickly, the one factor that occurs is that they’re utilized when they aren’t helpful, and once they need to be utilized, there’s already an financial and social put on and tear,” he mentioned. “So, we ask, we name for calm on this regard.”

By Friday night time, nonetheless, the variety of confirmed instances had shot up. The federal authorities was spurred to take extra strong motion, and well being officers known as for the suspension of “nonessential providers,” together with seminars, courses, boards and different small-scale occasions which have a low financial influence.

Additional measures had been introduced on Saturday. The Pumas-Cruz Azul game — one among a number of skilled soccer matches contested in crowded stadiums throughout Mexico on Friday night time and Saturday — was additionally one of many final.

On Saturday afternoon, whereas the ladies’s groups performed earlier than a crowd of greater than 22,000 followers, the authorities announced that the rest of the weekend’s league matches could be performed in empty arenas. That would come with a much-anticipated match between the Mexico Metropolis rivals Membership América and Cruz Azul, which might happen within the cavernous Azteca Stadium. The league announced Sunday that it will droop the season after the Membership América-Cruz Azul match on Sunday night time.

The varsity Easter break was expanded from two weeks to a month starting on March 20, and federal well being officers really useful that every one “nonessential actions” be suspended beginning on March 23 and that large-scale occasions with greater than 5,000 individuals be postponed.

However officers and organizers gave the inexperienced gentle to Vive Latino, a serious two-day music pageant in Mexico Metropolis, which drew tens of thousands of people to its first day of performances on Saturday. As followers pressed together for hours in entrance of monumental levels, social media posts exhibiting the crowds drew scathing replies geared toward each organizers and attendees.

A number of followers who attended the Pumas-Cruz Azul girls’s match mentioned they had been relying on the federal government to impose the mandatory measures to make sure their well-being.

“I belief in what the authorities say, that it’s not a essential second but,” mentioned Anabel Bautista, 33, an insurance coverage analyst who attended the sport with two associates. “I’ve confidence in them.”

However some critics have accused the federal government of transferring too slowly, at nice hazard to the inhabitants.

Raymundo Riva Palacio, an influential columnist for El Financiero, a Mexican every day, accused the López Obrador administration of creating “late and erratic selections that put the nation at nice danger.”

In interviews, nonetheless, some epidemiologists counseled the federal government’s slower method to coping with the disaster.

“It’s a must to act with the data that you’ve and make rational selections,” mentioned Dr. Alejandro Macias, an infectious ailments specialist who helped lead Mexico’s nationwide response to the 2009 influenza outbreak.

“Imposing lockdowns proper now wouldn’t save any lives,” he added. “However we’ll more than likely have to begin doing it quickly.”

Dr. Juan Luis Mosqueda Gómez, an infectious ailments specialist on the College of Guanajuato in Mexico, added: “Mexico is close to the chaos; we’re simply lagging a bit behind everybody else.”

“After we attain that time, lots of people will argue extra may have been achieved to stop it,” he continued. “It’s tough for most of the people to know that there isn’t.”

Paulina Villegas contributed reporting.


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