Mexico hardens strategy to contain epidemic

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, in San Luis Rio Colorado, March 28. Mexico's Presidency / Mexico's Presidency via REUTERS

No more crowds and hugs for Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who has long challenged the coronavirus. Reluctant to compulsory confinement, "AMLO" has just hardened the tone by calling on the Mexicans to stay at home while their country grazed, Sunday, March 29, the bar of 1,000 cases of Covid-19. A radical shift in the management of the crisis in Mexico in the face of colossal health and economic risks.

"If we don't stay at home, the contamination could explode (…), it would be out of control ”, warned AMLO in a speech broadcast on Friday March 27 on Youtube. The president of the left urges the Mexicans to voluntary and massive isolation. A few days earlier, however, he continued to procrastinate. Unlike many other countries on the subcontinent, Mexico has not closed its borders or sought to limit air traffic.

Since the first case detected, on February 27, voices have risen to denounce the laxity of the head of state, who continued to shake hands, brandishing amulets in front of journalists supposed to protect him from the virus. On Sunday March 22, AMLO always invited Mexicans to go to the small restaurants with their families. The following day, the government nevertheless closed the schools and launched a campaign of social distancing between individuals.

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"Smoothing the epidemiological curve"

Not enough, for several governors, who imposed stricter local containment measures. Civil society has also taken the lead. Large companies have interrupted their production or invited their employees to telecommute. The federal government followed suit on Thursday, March 26, by suspending its "non-essential activities".

But AMLO still refuses to make confinement compulsory, in a country where 52 of the 129 million Mexicans are poor. "Extreme measures can be worse than the disease for people who live day to day," justified AMLO, advocating for weeks "A balance between protecting the health and the economy of the poorest" : 56% of workers are in the informal sector without a fixed salary or social security.

However, the president has just changed his tune without imposing restrictive containment measures: "I know this (containment) will mean costs, but the economy could fall even more without prevention, " he explained on Friday. The following day, Hugo Lopez-Gatell, vice-minister of health in charge of the Covid-19 crisis, alerted the media that"Massive and urgent containment is our last opportunity (…) to avoid overloading the health system. " According to this epidemiologist, "The goal is to control the number of new infections to smooth the epidemiological curve and spread the severe cases over time." Mexico had, on Sunday, 993 cases of coronavirus and 20 deaths.

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