Juarez coronavirus: Mexican Consulate in El Paso invites you not to visit Juarez

27/08/2020

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the binational dynamics in this border area. To prevent the spread of Covid-19, the Consulate General of Mexico in El Paso urges the Pasino community not to make trips to Juarez if they are not essential.

Ciudad Juárez coronavirus update: Mexican Consulate in El Paso invites you not to visit Juarez. Photo: EFE
Ciudad Juárez coronavirus update: Mexican Consulate in El Paso invites you not to visit Juarez. Photo: EFE

Through a communiqué, the consular headquarters reiterates the call -unpublished until a few months- for U.S. citizens and legal residents of the U.S. not to cross into Mexico in an unjustified manner, thus avoiding the risk of spreading the disease that has taken the lives of more than a thousand residents in El Paso and Juarez.

"For the time being, the Zaragoza-Ysleta, Jerónimo-Santa Teresa, Córdova-Américas, Paso del Norte, Fort Hancock-Porvenir and Guadalupe-Tornillo crossings have been subject to greater review by U.S. authorities, through a double inspection system and the reduction of pedestrian and vehicular lanes, which has resulted in longer than usual waiting times to cross the border," said Mexico's Foreign Ministry (SRE).

Both countries agreed in late March to partially close the border, to prevent non-essential travelers -basically tourists and Mexican shoppers- from crossing into the United States by land and transmitting the virus in El Paso.

The agreement has been renewed on a monthly basis and remains in effect until September, with the possibility of renewal.

However, U.S. authorities allow the return of citizens and permanent residents to their country, a situation that led thousands of Paseños to cross into Juarez for no essential purpose, increasing the risk of cross-border contagion.

Juarez coronavirus cases trend line. Source: Secretariat of Health
Juarez coronavirus cases trend line. Source: Secretariat of Health

To curb this situation, the U.S. government implemented a series of measures at different points in the border area to contain the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Now those crossing back to El Paso must justify that their trip was for an essential purpose, otherwise, they will be subject to secondary checks.

As of the weekend, lines at international bridges have been lengthy, slow, and thoroughly checked for citizens and permanent residents in the United States, as crossing restrictions remain in place but are now more strictly enforced.

"In the interest of guaranteeing access to those traveling for essential reasons, the Consulate General of Mexico in El Paso reiterates the invitation of the Government of Mexico to avoid non-essential travel between Mexico and the United States," states the Consulate's communiqué.

"I think it's basically okay, although of course, it hurts to wait on the bridges, because this makes us think twice about whether we really have to go to Juarez," said Michael Tiscareño, a resident of El Paso's West Side. "We took advantage of the fact that as citizens we are allowed free transit to go shopping or even to go to a dive in Juarez where it is cheaper".

Ciudad Juárez coronavirus update
Ciudad Juárez coronavirus update

He explained that his girlfriend -a Mexican citizen- lives in the neighboring city and that is why he usually visits her on Fridays and returns to the U.S. on Sunday afternoon. "I spent almost five hours in line. This weekend we will see what we can implement, or if we stop seeing each other for a few days," he added.

Previously, other officials have urged the community to avoid making cross-border trips if they are not really necessary. Such is the case of Armando Cabada, municipal president of Juarez, who spoke out in favor of partially closing the U.S. border to Mexico because of the pandemic. "If there is a limitation on non-essential travel from South to North, then North to South should be the same," he said.

The provisions that the U.S. government has taken prohibit access to tourists to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, allowing only citizens and residents to enter the country by land, except for some essential crossings of travelers with tourist visas.

Covid-19 coronavirus infections in El Paso are expected to decrease slightly, however, as of Tuesday, health officials were still reporting just over 3,000 active cases in the county and nearly 20,000 infections since the pandemic began.

For its part, the Mexican Consulate in El Paso said that Mexican consulates in the border area will continue to report changes in the situation and relevant details for Mexican citizens making essential trips.

Timetables

Since March, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has been reducing personnel and operating fewer vehicle lanes during off-peak hours for users on international bridges, including U.S. citizens.

In mid-May, even some workers along the border - in order to get to work on time - began sleeping in their cars at night as vehicles were stopped processing between midnight and 6 a.m.

The agency said that from Monday to Friday from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., no more than 50 percent of the checkpoints are open, with the intention of intensifying checks to ensure that entry into the country is for essential reasons. While, during the weekends, these schedules are handled Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am to 2 pm.

"If your visit is not essential, avoid entering during these hours," the agency urges.

According to CBP data, Monday morning waiting times doubled and tripled at some crossings, compared to normal hours.

Do not cross, if you do not have to

New safety measures and exorbitant delays on bridges include more thorough inspections and education for non-essential travelers. CBP assures users that its officers will have the discretion to refer non-essential travelers to secondary inspection to further investigate the nature of their travel.

"We need people to think twice about non-essential travel and to ask themselves whether it is worth risking their lives and the lives of others. We believe these measures will discourage nonessential travel and reduce the spread of the virus," said CBP. The agency said that commercial supply chains, including road transport, are not subject to temporary travel restrictions.

"CBP remains firm in its commitment to facilitate the cross-border movement of life-saving food, fuel, workers, and medicines that are necessary to protect our nation," it reported.