President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador urged Mexico City residents to avoid gatherings and stay home following the World Health Organization’s request that Mexico take the pandemic more seriously.
“I’m making a new call for us all to act fully responsibly this month of December,” the leader said during a Friday morning press conference after hospital occupancy in the capital rose from 50% in early November to 69% at the start of this month.
The warning marks a shift in tone from the Mexican president. Lopez Obrador was slow to order lockdown measures, quick to relax them, and has consistently emphasized that he opposes mandates in any form, saying that freedom is paramount. The laggard reaction drew condemnation from the WHO, which said on Nov. 30 that “Mexico is in bad shape” after a 25% increase in deaths the week prior and urged the nation “to be very serious” about its response.
While the president changed tone to sound the alarm in the capital, he repeated that he wouldn’t restrict people’s liberty, preferring to place his trust in them to do the right thing: “For as long as we don’t have the vaccine, the best, the most effective thing we can do, is to take care of ourselves.”
Mexico has the world’s fourth-highest Covid-19 death count.
More than 100 000 Mexican residents have died since the coronavirus pandemic began — the fourth-worst death count in the world — and the latest hospitalizations and death counts indicate that a new surge is underway.
Mexico City is rushing to boost testing to avert a lockdown ahead of the holiday season, and Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said on Friday that she’s reducing government operations and calling on companies to return to work from home. She said the city will remain at orange alert, which is the second highest in Mexico’s Covid alert system, but that it’s nearing a code red signal, which would require essential businesses to shut.
On Thursday the number of confirmed cases in the country rose to 1.14 million and deaths reached 108 173.