Mexico’s Sonora state to close U.S. border over COVID-19 rise in Arizona

The United States and Mexico previously agreed to limit non-essential border crossings into the U.S. during the pandemic

Mexico’s Sonora state to close U.S. border over COVID-19 rise in Arizona
Commuters line up to cross to the United States at the San Ysidro crossing port in Tijuana, Baja California - Photo: Guillermo Arias/AFP
English 04/07/2020 12:59 Newsroom & Agencies Mexico CityNewsroom/EL UNIVERSAL & Newsroom/AP Actualizada 12:59

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Mexico’s coronavirus outbreak rose by a record 6,741 confirmed cases and 679 deaths Thursday, putting the country’s toll of 29,189 COVID-19 deaths higher than Spain’s, though the grim milestone was overshadowed by the resurgence in the United States.

Reacting to a spike in virus cases reported in Arizona, the top health official in the neighboring Mexican state of Sonora is asking Mexico’s federal government to temporarily close the border to non-essential visits from the U.S.

“No more crossings from the United States into Mexico for visitors who do not have essential activities,” Sonora state Health Secretary Enrique Clausen said Wednesday. “They should only be allowed for work or business.” He said he was asking only for entry into Sonora to be suspended.

The United States and Mexico previously agreed to limit non-essential border crossings into the U.S. during the pandemic, but Mexico has not moved to block entry into its territory and it seemed unlikely the Foreign Relations Department would grant Clausen’s request. The agency did announce it would screen incoming visitors from the United States over the July 4th weekend, checking temperatures and asking about symptoms as a preventative measure.

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Several towns in Sonora are popular with U.S. visitors because they offer lower-cost health, vision, and dental services. Puerto Peñasco, a resort also known as Rocky Point, is also popular with visitors from Arizona.

The Mexican state has only about one-tenth as many confirmed cases as Arizona — 8,976 as compared to 87,425 — but the two states are more comparable in COVID-19 deaths — Sonora with 909 and Arizona with 1,757.

Mexico’s rising case numbers probably hide a much larger number of infections and deaths, because Mexico in general does very little testing.

Assistant Health Secretary Hugo López-Gatell was asked Thursday about a Washington Post story in which he was quoted as saying about three times as many people died in Mexico City from March through May than in previous years.

“I recognize that the number of people who have died from COVID-19 could be much higher here — concretely, the comment was three times as many as what we present here (at daily briefings) every night. I have said that same thing on a number of occasions,” López-Gatell said.

On Thursday, Governor Francisco Cabeza de Vaca of Tamaulipas, another border state, announced he had tested positive for the coronavirus, the latest in a string of Mexican state governors and federal officials who have been infected.

The list of Mexican governors who have contracted the new disease include Hidalgo Governor Omar Fayad, Tabasco Governor Adán Augusto López, Querétaro Governor Francisco Domínguez Servién, and Guerrero Governor Héctor Astudillo. Finance Minister Arturo Herrera has also contracted COVID-19.

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Sonora Governor Claudia Pavlovich Arellano announced that the health operation at the Sonora-Arizona border to halt the entrance of people from the U.S. who come into Mexico for non-essential activities will begin next week.

This action aims to lower the number of COVID-19 cases since Arizona registered another surge in cases. All tasks performed at the border will be coordinated by the National Migration Institute (INM) and the state government.

Pavlovich Arellano agreed with Foreign Affairs Minister Marcelo Ebrard, in a virtual interview, to close the border between Sonoro and the U.S. due to the surge in infections registered in Arizona

“There will be filters at the border (…) in San Luis Rio Colorado, Nogales, Agua Prieta to warn people they cannot cross unless they come for essential activities.

“We will all be careful at this moment to prevent a tougher impact regarding COVID-19,” she said.

Pavlovich Arellano said she requested the support of the Foreign Affairs Ministry so that the different embassies and consulates in Arizona informed people about the border closing.

The Sonora Governor said essential activities are related to trade, work, healthcare services, security, and purchasing medicines.

“It is not only the filter at the border; it is also at the beach and the at the municipality they want to go to, or if they want to visit someone in the rural towns of Río Sonora,” she added.

“Every filter that will be implemented at the U.S. border will have officials from the Health sector and the IMN, as well as security officers,” she said.