Mexico and Canada extend border closures with the U.S.
The governments of Mexico and the United States announced an agreement to extend 30 days more restrictions on non-essential land travel on their common border to combat the spread of the coronavirus in both countries. Canada has done the same this week for its southern neighbor, the United States, by closing its land borders until June 21.
The extension of the restriction measures to non-essential land transit was resolved "after reviewing the development of the spread of COVID-19 in Mexico and the United States," reported the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SRE).
As part of an agreement to curb the coronavirus pandemic, the governments of Mexico and the United States closed the common border for non-essential travel since March 21.
The restrictions will continue on the same terms as they have been in place since they were implemented on March 21.
"Both countries will continue to seek to coordinate health measures in the border region," Mexico's Foreign Ministry said.
The U.S. is the main market for tourists to Mexico, both by land and air, and Mexico is a major customer for the U.S. tourism industry.
The established restrictions do not prevent the commercial transit of food, fuel, health care equipment, and medicines across the border between both countries.
Mexico's border with the United States, which extends for more than 3,000 kilometers, is one of the most active in the world with more than one million people crossing every day.
Canada also extends
Canada and the United States have reached an agreement to keep their border closed to all traffic considered non-essential at least until June 21, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday.
In mid-March, the two countries initially agreed to limit cross-border traffic to the transport of goods and workers considered essential for 30 days to contain the spread of COVID-19. The measure was subsequently extended by one month in April.
Trudeau said the border closure is necessary because it is "a vulnerability", as the arrival of people from the United States can lead to further outbreaks of COVID-19.
The Canadian prime minister also said that U.S. authorities are "completely open" to keep the border closed for another 30 days.
As to when Canada will reopen its borders, Trudeau said they are making decisions "week by week. "The situation is changing rapidly and we are constantly adjusting measures that are appropriate for Canadians and maintaining that balance between keeping Canadians safe and restoring normalcy and economic activity," he said.
U.S.-Mexico border restrictions do not block the virus
Two months ago, the Donald Trump administration blocked the crossing of tens of thousands of people with measures that restrict the trafficking of all non-essential activity and began immediately returning asylum seekers arriving from Mexico, all with the consensus of the Mexican government and the argument of protecting the United States from the transmission of the new coronavirus.
But in Tijuana and other border cities there are experts and citizens who believe the disease spread in just the opposite direction, fuelled, moreover, by the fact that the quarantine on the Mexican side was not as severe and many factories continued to operate.
When the restrictions, which were just extended for another month this week, were put in place, the United States had 28 times as many people infected as Mexico, a substantial difference that more or less remains even though Mexico has done far less testing and most experts agree that there is an underreporting of cases.
"There were many people who migrated here to Mexico," explained Dr. Remedios Lozada, head of Tijuana's health jurisdiction. When their jobs were stopped, some Mexicans chose to spend that time with their families, and some were possibly already infected, although they did not know it. "That's when we started to face the greatest number of cases," the doctor added.
Further east, residents of Nogales, on the Sonoran-Arizona border, temporarily blocked the crossing at that time in protest of the Mexican government's lack of health controls on those entering the country and the fear that Mexico's weak health system would be overwhelmed.
On paper, the restrictions on all non-essential movement agreed to by the United States and Mexico are the same for both countries but, in practice, the tourism blockade essentially limited the crossing of Mexicans to the north - many border residents have tourist visas - but allowed the free movement of U.S. citizens or those with legal residence in that country, such as Gama.
In April, Tijuana went through some difficult times. Some hospitals became saturated, families complained about the lack of information about their patients, maquila workers demonstrated because they were forced to work and feared they would be infected - as happened in many cases - and health professionals protested the lack of equipment to protect themselves as the epidemic began to touch them directly.
Governor Jaime Bonilla went so far as to say that doctors and nurses were "dropping like flies.
From the northern side of the border, California authorities and hospital directors were concerned about the increase in patients crossing over for treatment. Kristin Gaspar, a regional authority in San Diego County, sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence asking the White House to send help to Mexico to treat these people and even proposing to set up a temporary hospital right on the border.
The Mexican consul in San Diego, Carlos González Gutiérrez, responded to the letter by saying that there was no evidence that Mexicans were crossing en masse to receive medical care in the United States and indicated that those who were crossing were either U.S. citizens or persons with dual nationality.
On Friday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom reported that a "field medical station" is being built that will have up to 125 beds to help a farming region along the Mexican border that has had a surge in coronavirus cases.
The first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the city, as well as two previous cases in Mexicali, the first in Baja California, were people who had traveled to the United States but experts remember that this is one of the busiest borders in the world, with many international visitors and a high number of connections to Mexico City, the epicenter of the pandemic in the country. All of this, coupled with its bi-national nature, makes Tijuana more vulnerable to the virus.
Mexican authorities say the city has already passed the peak of infection, with hospitals now less than 60% occupied and decongested thanks to neighbourhood clinics set up to care for the less serious.
But doctors and experts warn that the situation is still critical and could get complicated because the gradual resumption of activities in California has increased the number of crossings in recent days and Baja California is also preparing to reactivate work in industries and factories.