Sonoyta residents blocked U.S. residents from entering Mexico amid COVID-19 fears 

Sonoyta mayor asked U.S. tourists not to visit the town on July 4

Sonoyta residents blocked U.S. residents from entering Mexico amid COVID-19 fears 
Commuters line up to cross to the United States at the San Ysidro crossing port in Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico on June 16, 2020, amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic - Photo: Guillermo Arias/AFP
English 06/07/2020 15:17 Amalia Escobar / Corresponsal Mexico City Actualizada 15:26

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Mexican residents from Sonoyta, Sonora, a small town located across from Lukeville, Arizona, briefly blocked the main road leading south from the United States border over the weekend over fears of COVID-19 outbreaks.

Arizona registered a major upsurge in infections and there were worries about intensified contagion during the July 4 weekend.

The mayor of Sonoyta, José Ramos Arzate, issued a statement on July 4 “inviting U.S. tourists not to visit Mexico.”

Local residents organized to block the road with their cars on the Mexican side on Saturday.

Recommended: Mexico is ready to reopen amid a surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths

A video posted by residents showed several travelers complaining that they had a right to cross because they were Mexican citizens. The road is the quickest route to the seaside resort of Puerto Peñasco, also known as Rocky Point.

Ramos Arzate wrote that people from the United States should only be allowed in “for essential activities, and for that reason, the checkpoint and inspection point a few meters from the Sonoyta-Lukeville AZ crossing will continue operating.”

“We had agreed on this in order to safeguard the health of our community in the face of an accelerated rate of COVID-19 contagion in the neighboring state of Arizona,” Ramos Arzate wrote. “It is our duty as municipal authorities to protect the health of our town.”

Mexico and the United States agreed previously to limit border crossings to essential activities, but up until this week, that had mainly been enforced for people entering the United States, not the other way.

The Mexican residents demanded health checks on incoming visitors, better health care facilities, and broader COVID-19 testing.

There has been some resentment that tourists, but not local residents, had reportedly been allowed into Puerto Peñasco, where many banks and other services are located.

Several towns in Sonora are popular with U.S. visitors because they offer lower-cost health, vision, and dental services. 

Hours later, Sonoyta and Puerto Peñasco mayors reached an agreement to allow the tourists to cross through the small town.

Mayors José Ramos Arzate and Kiko Munro talked to the residents blocking the road since July 2 and agreed Sonoyta residents will be allowed into Puerto Peñasco for essential activities. 

They also agreed to implement preventive, security, healthcare measures. 

Puerto Peñasco authorities also promised to donate PPE, face masks, oxygen tanks, and other equipment to healthcare workers in Sonoyta. 

COVID-19 in Sonora
As of July 5, Sonora registered 9,270 COVID-19 cases and 925 deaths. Sonoyta is the municipal seat of the Plutarco Elías Calles municipality, where health authorities have registered 34 COVID-19 cases. Meanwhile, Puerto Peñasco has registered 27 contagions. 

Since the pandemic arrived in Mexico, 5,613 people have tested negative to COVID-19 and 6,225 patients have successfully recovered from the illness. Moreover, 73.27% of the patients have been hospitalized, while 26.73% isolated at home. 

Earlier this year, Mexico and U.S. authorities agreed to limit borders crossing in a bid to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

Mexican authorities implement harsh COVID-19 measures
Amid a surge in infection rates and deaths in Mexico, some states are backpedaling on reopening businesses. For example, the Mexico City government said more streets in the city’s colonial-era downtown area would be closed to traffic but open to pedestrians.

The city already allows businesses with even-numbered addresses to open one day, and odd-numbered businesses the next.

But on July 5, the city proposed a new, voluntary measure to reduce crowds downtown: officials asked people whose last names begin with the letters A to L to shop on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Those whose names begin with the letters M to Z would be encouraged to shop Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. However, there was no proposal to enforce the rule.

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