MEXICO CITY (AP) — Nine opposition state governors in Mexico announced Wednesday they would support rules requiring mandatory wearing of face masks in public spaces and broader coronavirus testing.
It was the first organized rebellion against President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s policy of casting doubt on the use of face masks and restricting testing to only those who display serious symptoms of COVID-19.
The nine governors are all from the conservative National Action Party and represent almost one-third of Mexico’s 32 states.
Gov. Carlos Mendoza of Baja California Sur state said the goal would be to double the number of tests by applying them at workplaces, homes and in random samples.
Since the pandemic began, Mexico has tested only about 3 million of its almost 130 million inhabitants, or about 2.3% of the population. López Obrador’s advisors argue that broader testing would be a waste of time and effort.
“The way it is (with testing), we cannot visualize the true magnitude of the pandemic, or successfully face it,” Mendoza said.
López Obrador himself almost never wears a mask and his advisors have claimed they do nothing to protect the wearer.
But Gov. Mauricio Vila of Yucatan state said “public policy should be based on the best practices, to alleviate people’s suffering.”
There is evidence that masks aid both in preventing the wearer from spreading the disease, or catching it themselves.
López Obrador has also criticized the use of fines or arrests to enforce mask or social distancing mandates, calling them an infringement of people’s liberty and comparing them to “dictatorship.”
The opposition governors said each state would define how to sanction those who refuse to wear masks. Such matters fall within then authority of state governments in Mexico, unless they run afoul of constitutional guarantees or federal law.
Mexico will hold midterm congressional and state-level elections in 2021, and the pandemic and the ensuing economic downturn have become issues in the run-up to those campaigns.
Mexico has the fourth-highest death toll in the world, with almost 110,000 test-confirmed COVID-19 deaths. But official estimates of the real toll, including those who didn’t get tested, is closer to 150,000. The country has seen about 1.2 million confirmed cases.
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