Mexico president kicks off 'new normal' phase amid pandemicPTI | Cancun | Updated: 02-06-2020 06:06 IST | Created: 02-06-2020 06:06 IST
Amid a pandemic and a brewing tropical storm, Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador kicked off Mexico's return to a "new normal" Monday with his first road trip in two months as the nation began to gradually ease some virus-inspired restrictions. López Obrador said he's taking all necessary precautions — he drove the 1,000 miles from Mexico City over the weekend rather than flying — on a trip to promote construction of one of his signature infrastructure projects the Mayan Train.
While the federal government's nationwide social distancing rule formally ended Monday, it is urging people in so-called “red” zones to maintain most of those measures — and so many people are falling ill and dying each day that those zones cover nearly the whole country. Mexico is nearing 100,000 confirmed infections and nearly 10,000 deaths, both considered to be undercounts.
Mexican officials said last week that more than 5,000 companies had implemented protocols that would allow them to reopen this week. The federal government had cleared businesses in the mining, construction and auto manufacturing sectors to resume operations. While in Cancun, the president was also talking up what local officials hope is the quick return of tourists. Mexico's most popular beach destination officially plans to reopen next week — albeit with social distancing restrictions such as a ban on buffets. Quintana Roo Gov. Carlos Manuel Joaquín Gonzalez said they've already started receiving reservations.
But around Cancun, nothing appeared normal yet. The beaches were empty, bars and restaurants remained closed. Locals walked around wearing masks and traffic was light. The dramatic drop of international air travel and April 1 closure of Cancun's beaches left thousands unemployed. Cancun resident Andres Jose Conrado said maybe his city could reopen in a few months, but it was more important to continue with the health precautions.
"I say it's very early (to reopen)," Conrado said, a cloth mask over his nose and mouth. "For now I say it's not necessary." But Sergio Ortega Jara, another resident who is out of work, said they need to get jobs back. He conceded that the virus was a real danger, but insisted people need income. "It's kind of bad, there's no work," Ortega said. In Mexico City, traffic has increased significantly in the past week. In some neighbourhoods foot traffic had hardly ever diminished. Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum urged residents via Twitter on Monday to stay at home if it wasn't absolutely necessary to go out.
Still, public spaces vacant of people during the past two months were bustling on Monday. There were protests by police and unemployed musicians in the principal plaza. People strolled in the historic center and along a main boulevard. Cleaning seemed to be happening everywhere as still-closed offices and restaurants prepared to open.
A long line of people seeking construction permits stretched in front of a city office building. While the city has had some success imposing orderly lines at its subway stations, a commuter bus line station was chaos. Most people at least were wearing masks..