Foreign minister: Mexico will not close the border despite COVID-19 surge

Border Report

Non-essential border travel restrictions stay in place but denying entry to Americans would have "serious consequences" on economy

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Despite pleas from the mayor of Juarez and Chihuahua health officials to restrict the entry of U.S. visitors to slow the spread of COVID-19, Mexico will take no such action, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said.

Speaking at a press conference in Mexico City broadcast on YouTube, Ebrard said his country is holding weekly meetings with officials from U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Homeland Security to evaluate the COVID-19 threat. He said the current policy banning only non-essential travel is adequate.

“Mexico will not apply a mandatory closing. That would have many consequences,” Ebrard said. “What does a mandatory closing mean? That we would close the border. That you cannot come in. But that would paralyze activity on the border, and you can imagine the damage” it would cause to the economy.

Mexico and the U.S. have agreed to restrict non-essential international border crossings through Nov. 21. Ebrard said that agreement would not be modified.

People walk into the entrance of the Paso del Norte International Bridge during a shut-down of non-essential travel to control the coronavirus, COVID-19, outbreak in El Paso, Texas on March 21, 2020. President Donald Trump announced on March 20, 2020, that the US and Mexico have agreed to restrict non-essential travel across their border beginning on March 21. The shutdown appears to only affect tourists and shoppers, but has created confusion amongst residents as to whether or not they can cross. (Photo by PAUL RATJE/Agence France-Presse/AFP via Getty Images)

“If we receive recommendations (we will) hold the course, have non-essential activity halted, but we are not expecting a total halt to activity because the impact could be very serious,” he said.

Juarez Mayor Armando Cabada last week send a letter to Mexican federal authorities requesting at the very least enforcement of the non-essential travel ban at Mexican ports of entry opposite El Paso, Texas. In practice, only U.S. visitors who draw the “red light” at the southbound check point are asked questions at all.

Cabada believes the lack of enforcement is contributing to the record surge of COVID-19 in Juarez.

As of Thursday, Juarez had recorded 1,174 COVID-19 deaths and 13,283 infections, but hospital capacity is hovering around 90%, new infections are up more than 300% compared to previous weeks and 72 of the fatalities have come in the past three days.

El Paso, Texas has recorded almost four times as many cases (47,052) since the pandemic began and reported another 1,347 on Friday alone.

The mayor himself has been hospitalized for several days with complications from the coronavirus.

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