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Stage 2

31 March 2020

Via El País, and others:

Monday afternoon Mexico declared a state of health emergency and extended the suspension of non-essential activities in the public and private sector until next April 30, 10 days more than previously announced.

Officially mandatory, the measures are being communicated as an appeal to citizens to act responsibly, leading to some confusion as to whether the restrictions are to be enforced, or merely suggested. More details will be forthcoming in Tuesday’s Diario Oficial de la Federacion (https;//dof.gob.mx)

At the time of the announcement, there had been 28 deaths attributed to COVID-19, and 1094 confirmed cases.  This is eight more deaths, and 101 more infections than the previous day.  Given the accelerated rate of increase in infections, the Government decided to apply more drastic measures: it has restricted the meetings of more than 50 attendees and urged all people within Mexico to take shelter in their homes, especially those over 60, pregnant women and those falling into high risk groups.  The restrictions are mandatory for businesses, while for citizens, mobility at this juncture is an “emphatic invitation”.
The press conference in which the measures were announced indicates a toughening of the government’s actions, but leaves doubts about their implementation. It is not clear who will be affected by these new measures, but it leaves open the possibility for sanctions on those who do not abide by the guidelines, including more restrictive measures at the state or municipal level.
The federal census (now in progress) has been temporary suspended, and several government offices, except for those dealing with security, justice, public health, and legislation will be active during the quarantine. The Armed Forces have put forward a plan to reinforce the health infrastructure that depends on the Army, as well as support for  guaranteeing the food supply to the most vulnerable population, and safeguarding strategic sites.
Exact details of the emergency procedures are still being developed.  The Armed Forces have said they need ten days to prepare the infrastructure needed and no figures have been released regarding government procurement.  The decree has issued instructions for more than a dozen Secretaries of State, without that implying specific provisions, being more in the nature of action plans for the various programs under the different cabinet offices.
Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, on behalf of the administration said that sanctions and possible criminal charges are being contemplated for those who do not respect the measures being adopted.  These include  penalties for companies that do not respect the restrictions or violate the labor rights of their employees
Hugo López-Gatell, Under-Secretary of Health for Epidemic Diseases (and the government point-man on the response to Coronavirus) said this is an “opportunity to mitigate transmission” He said that the.government hopes that if the strategy succeeds, its epidemic curve will reach its highest point in late May. The least optimistic scenario is that if the distancing measures are not followed, contagions will peak in April.
“Stay at home, stay at home, stay at home,” said the spokesman. “The emergency declaration does not imply a state of emergency,” stressed López-Gatell.
As to protecting the economy, president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has announced that on April 5 he will present a series of measures to revive the economy after the collapse of oil prices and the drop in the value of the peso against the dollar. The plan contemplates a million credits for small companies, both in the informal and formal sectors, although the amount has not been detailed. As announced by the president, the program may also contemplate new sanitary measures.
Mexico continues to be one of the few countries on the continent, along with Nicaragua, where no compulsory mobility restrictions have been imposed on citizens. López Obrador has ruled out that there are curfews or greater attributions to the Army, and his Government has opted for a gradual approach that launches preventive actions, anticipating that the stage of epidemic contagions will arrive in the coming days. The country’s strategy has been praised by the regional and international representatives of the World Health Organization, although they have urged that stricter measures be taken when the spread worsens and despite the fact that every day, questions from critical sectors increase.
With the epicenter of the pandemic installed in the United States since last weekend, the government’s heterodoxy will be tested again.

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