MEXICO CITY– President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador pledged last week to begin reopening Mexico’s economy this week — under pressure at home and from U.S. officials — even as the country saw its largest one-day jump in coronavirus cases, hospitals are reeling, and testing remains inadequate.
Economy Secretary Graciela Marquez said the move would be “gradual, orderly and cautious,” and that by Monday, industries like construction, mining and car and truck manufacturing would be allowed to resume.
A lockdown, which includes mandatory closures of “nonessential” businesses and began in March, will remain in place, but work in the industries Marquez cited will be allowed to begin again because Mexico’s top advisory body on the pandemic, the General Health Council, said recently it had decided to classify them as “essential activities.”
Mexico has been under pressure from U.S. officials to reopen auto plants, in particular, because without them, integrated supply chains would make it hard for plants in the U.S. and Canada to reopen. At home, the National Alliance of Small Business Owners has also complained about lockdown measures, often imposed, quasi-legally, at the local level.
But others in Mexico fear a reopening, saying the measures were too long in coming and have been in place for too short a period. The announcement came as hospitals from Mexico City to its northern border with the U.S. were nearing overload, and manufacturing workers in border cities like Ciudad Juarez had only recently been sent home after demanding a shutdown in protests prompted by the wildfire spread of the coronavirus through their plants.
Mexican health officials last week reported the country’s largest single-day jump in covid-19 case numbers, with 1,997 new cases and 353 deaths, bringing the total to over 38,000 confirmed cases and almost 4,000 deaths.
Officials have acknowledged the actual number of infections is many times that. Mexico has done relatively little testing, with about 120,000 tests reported so far in a country of almost 130 million. That is equivalent to only about 0.6 people per 1,000 inhabitants tested, the lowest rate in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
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