Mexico has suddenly decided that it likes secure borders after all.
According to the U.K. Daily Mail, the Mexican government is considering closing its border with the United States in order to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. Mexican health officials are worried that carriers from the United States would bring the virus to the country, which has relatively few cases of the disease.
“Mexico wouldn’t bring the virus to the United States, rather the United States would bring it here,” Mexican health minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell said at a Friday news conference.
“The possible flow of coronavirus would come from the north to the south,” he said.
“If it were technically necessary, we would consider mechanisms of restriction or stronger surveillance.”
Lopez-Gatell isn’t wrong. While Trump has said strong borders have contributed to containing the disease — which may be true, given the fact the Trump administration clamped down on flights from China early on in the crisis — Mexico itself has only had 53 reported cases of COVID-19 as of Monday with no deaths.
To this point, and because we have had a very strong border policy, we have had 40 deaths related to CoronaVirus. If we had weak or open borders, that number would be many times higher!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 13, 2020
According to Worldometer’s running tally, that’s a relatively low number of 0.4 cases per 1 million people.
The United States, meanwhile, has had 4,141 cases with 71 deaths. That’s 12.5 cases per 1 million people.
That’s part of why, as The Associated Press reported, top Mexican health officials have wondered whether they’d have to close the border, since “we’d have to take into account not that Mexico would bring the virus to the U.S, rather than the United States could bring it here.”
Reuters reported last week that some residents in Tijuana that work over in the United States have now taken to social media to jokingly wonder whether Trump’s wall would solve some of their problems.
Tijuana business chamber official Julian Palombo wanted stronger border protections on the Mexican side.
“It makes sense to build a wall, but a public health wall from over there to here to avoid the risk of possible infections,” he said.
“Like others consulted by Reuters, Palombo bemoaned the lack of checks at busy land crossings into Tijuana, or in nearby airports. He added that face masks and hand sanitizer were in short supply on both sides of the border,” the wire service reported.
Keep in mind that the numbers in both Mexico and the United States — but especially the former — are probably artificially low due to a lack of testing. That means there could be plenty of cases below the border we simply don’t know about.
There’s also the fact that Mexico hasn’t taken the aggressive steps the United States has taken, either, or at least as quickly. Schools, for instance, will only be closed starting March 20, according to the El Paso Times.
While COVID-19 is certainly an unusual state of affairs, it’s curious Mexico suddenly wants to enforce the border without any prompting by U.S. officials.
Oh, they’re fine when prompted. When the Trump administration threatened trade consequences if the Mexican government didn’t start cracking down on Central American migration, the number of arrests and migrants being turned back at the border reached a two-year low last month.
However, it’s difficult to believe that Mexico would have done this on its own. Now, it’s suddenly all about proactive border security.
I’d probably be the same way if I were in the position that the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador is.
Then again, it’s wildly speculative to think AMLO has the situation in Mexico under any kind of control. This is one of the few major world leaders in coronavirus-prone areas left who’s been shaking hands, kissing cheeks and hugging people at campaign events, as he did just this weekend.
Of course, now that the number of cases in Mexico is increasing, albeit slowly, the aforementioned Hugo Lopez-Gatell has some different advice for his countrymen.
“We have already said it is highly recommendable starting today that we avoid greeting with handshakes, kisses, hugs. … Let us greet each other in a way that we do not need to be inside the healthy distance,” he said, according to the AP.
Not that border security is a bad thing, but perhaps the Mexican government has some internal issues with coronavirus to iron out, as well.
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