Two more states have passed laws that make the use of face masks mandatory as Mexico faces a surge in new coronavirus infections while Mexico City is on the verge of regressing to the red light “maximum” risk level on the Covid-19 stoplight system.
Lawmakers in Nayarit and Morelos passed laws on Thursday that make face masks mandatory in those two states.
In Nayarit, members of Congress unanimously approved a bill put forward by Governor Antonio Echevarría García. People not wearing face masks in public places or who fail to follow social distancing recommendations can now be arrested and held in custody for 36 hours or alternatively face fines of up to 1,700 pesos (US $85).
Citizens can also be sanctioned for spitting, coughing or sneezing without making an effort to prevent the spread of respiratory droplets.
Nayarit has recorded 7,127 confirmed coronavirus cases and 924 Covid-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic. The federal government estimates that there are 223 active cases in the Pacific coast state, where the risk of coronavirus infection is currently yellow light “medium” on the stoplight system.
In Morelos, 17 lawmakers in the 20-seat unicameral Congress voted in favor of making masks mandatory. Residents of the state will be required to wear them in all open-air and enclosed public spaces including their workplaces.
Mask scofflaws could be reprimanded, ordered to undertake community work or fined, according to the law. Businesses where owners or employees are not wearing masks could be temporarily closed.
Morelos has recorded a total of 7,772 confirmed coronavirus cases and 1,288 Covid-19 deaths. There are currently an estimated 352 active cases in the state, which like Nayarit is currently yellow on the stoplight map.
Six states have now legislated to make masks mandatory during the pandemic. The others to have done so are Chihuahua, Colima, Sonora and Zacatecas. The governors of many other states have ordered the use of masks by decree while some municipalities around the country have done the same.
In Mexico City, where masks are ostensibly obligatory but their use is not enforced, 196,028 people have now tested positive for Covid-19 and the infectious disease has claimed 17,259 lives. Those figures account for 18% and 16.5%, respectively, of Mexico’s accumulated case tally and official death toll.
The Health Ministry estimates that there are 16,273 active cases in the capital.
Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum announced Friday that Mexico City will remain at the orange light risk level “with alert” next week but warned that the capital is on the “limit” of switching to the “maximum” risk level.
“Hospitalizations have increased. … [We’re] on the limit of the red light,” she said.
As of Thursday night, there were 2,755 coronavirus patients in general care hospital beds in the capital and 844 people in beds with ventilators. Some hospitals in the capital are completely full with coronavirus patients, Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell said Wednesday.
Sheinbaum warned last week that there is a risk that hospital occupancy next month will reach reach the peak levels seen in May. Mexico City authorities have tightened restrictions in recent weeks, limiting the opening hours of many businesses and ordering bars and cantinas to close.
A prohibition on alcohol sales that applied last weekend in half of the capital’s 16 boroughs will take effect at 6:00 p.m. Friday in the other eight and remain in effect until 11:59 p.m. Sunday. The so-called ley seca, or dry law, will apply this weekend in Álvaro Obregón, Azcapotzalco, Benito Juárez, Coyoacán, Cuajimalpa, Cuauhtémoc, Milpa Alta and Venustiano Carranza.
The Mexico City government also announced that street vendors in the historic center will only be permitted to sell until 5:00 p.m. after which they will be moved on by police.
In addition, it said that a new contact tracing program will be extended to pharmacies and supermarkets. Citizens scan a QR code with their phones so that their number is registered and they can be contacted if they are found to have had contact with an infected person at stores and restaurants.
North of the capital in Querétaro, Governor Francisco Domínguez announced a range of new coronavirus restrictions on Thursday. He said the capacity of shopping centers will be reduced from 50% to 30% of normal levels and they will be required to close by 8:00 p.m.
Supermarkets and convenience stores will also be limited to 30% capacity and must close by 10:00 p.m.
Domínguez said that restaurants can operate until 10:00 p.m. at 50% capacity but are limited to providing takeout and delivery on Sundays. The sale of alcohol is prohibited in Querétaro on Sundays and only permitted until 10:00 p.m. Monday to Saturday.
The governor said that face masks are mandatory in all public places and reiterated that events that seek to gather more than 100 people are banned.
“We can’t relax, we can’t allow the disease to get away [from us],” Domínguez said.
Querétaro has recorded 20,578 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Thursday and 1.457 Covid-19 deaths. The Health Ministry estimates there are currently 2,715 active cases in the state, where the infection risk level is orange light “high.”
Along with Mexico City, Coahuila, Nuevo León, Zacatecas and Aguascalientes, Querétaro has been identified by federal health authorities as at high risk of going red on the stoplight map.
Meanwhile, Mexico’s national case tally rose to 1,078,594 on Thursday with 8,107 new cases registered. More than 10,000 cases were registered on both Tuesday and Wednesday, the only two days since the start of the pandemic on which a five-figure tally of new cases has been reported.
Health authorities have stressed that not all of the cases reported on a daily basis were actually detected in the preceding 24-hour period.
The official Covid-19 death toll increased to 104,242 on Thursday with 645 additional fatalities. Mexico’s coronavirus mortality rate – deaths per 100,000 inhabitants – is 82.6, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The rate here is higher than those of the United States, Brazil and India, which are the only countries to have recorded more Covid-19 deaths than Mexico.
Mexico’s case tally and death toll are widely believed to be much higher than official statistics show due to Mexico’s low testing rate.