Mexico City's subway removes elderly workers over COVID-19 fears

Elderly people and those with chronic diseases are more vulnerable to the new coronavirus

Mexico City's subway removes elderly workers over COVID-19 fears
The Metro made the decision in order to safeguard the health of employees – Photo: Diego Simón Sánchez/EL UNIVERSAL
English 26/03/2020 15:46 Eduardo Hernández Mexico City Actualizada 16:15
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Mexico City's subway (Metro) informed that as of this week, elderly workers and those with chronic diseases in charge of cleaning will be able to remain at home with paid leave and with no labor affectation as part of the contingency for the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Metro stressed that it established an agreement with external companies that offer cleaning services in stations and different buildings of the system so as to safeguard the health of employees.

In total, there are 3,200 people hired by these companies and that work at the Metro and, on average, a bit over 500 are older than 65 years of age.

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A similar decision was taken in grocery stores including Walmart de Mexico, that have given in to pressure to pull tens of thousands of elderly workers who pack bags at checkouts as concerns grow about their vulnerability to COVID-19 amid panic buying nationwide.

Some 35,000 elderly Mexicans, most between 60 and 74 years old, pack groceries at Walmart stores and other chains through a government-backed volunteer program, earning just tips.

The program, already criticized by labor activists, is under renewed scrutiny as fears about coronavirus have prompted a lot of Mexicans to self-isolate and work from home.

On March 20, Walmart de Mexico said it would suspend the program, following an online petition and a Reuters story about mounting pressure on the retailer, the largest in Mexico.

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“Taking into account that elderly people are an especially vulnerable group, we’ve decided to go without the presence of the elderly people who provide valuable support as volunteer grocery baggers,” the company said in a statement.

Walmart de Mexico also said it would offer the workers “economic support,” but did not provide further details.

Meanwhile, Metro's personnel from administrative areas or whose work does not intervene with the direct operation of the subway will be able to perform their work from home.

Employees at subdirectorates, directorates, and strategic management for the efficient, safe, and continuous operation of Mexico City's subway like Transportation, Fixed installations, Rolling stock, and Institutional Security, will continue their labors except those whose age or health require to remain at home.

In such a context, all staff who continues working at the Metro, mainly those with direct contact with users, have been given protection supplies such as sanitizing gel, gloves, and masks.

On the other hand, in addition to the halt of cultural activities and the closing of the cinema theater and museum, the Lost Objects Office located in Candelaria station will be temporarily closed as well as nine of the 11 Information Modules located in different points of the subway network.

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The only modules that will remain open are the ones located at the Juárez and Ermita stations in case of doubts or problems with rechargeable cards and to give general guidance on the subway network.

Meanwhile, there will be telephone numbers to provide information to users of Mexico City's Metro in five lines (55 5627-4588; 55 5627-4741; 55 5627-4861; 55 5627-4950 y 55 5627-4951); a Whatsapp line (‪55 4607-6806), as well as two e-mail addresses ([email protected] & [email protected]) from 9:00 to 21:00.

Lastly, the Metro urges its users to buy their tickets or recharge their cards with anticipation at the 320 machines installed throughout the network.

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