Monday will mark the beginning of the “new normal” for most but not all of the 269 coronavirus-free municipalities that have been given the green light to reopen, even as the Covid-19 pandemic worsens in other parts of the country.
The federal government said Wednesday that so-called “municipalities of hope” that have not recorded any coronavirus cases and don’t border any with confirmed infections will be allowed to reopen their economies and public spaces, and send students back to school on May 18.
However, authorities in some of the 15 states affected have indicated that they won’t follow the federal government’s advice to allow the municipalities to reopen.
The reopening won’t be without risk for residents of some of the municipalities slated to resume activities before the rest of the country.
The Mexican Center for Industrial Ecology (CMEI), a civil society organization with interests in environmental, social and economic issues, has warned that more than 60% of residents of six of the 15 states with coronavirus-free municipalities – Veracruz, Jalisco, Puebla, Guanajuato, Chiapas and Nuevo León – are particularly vulnerable to Covid-19 because of their age and the existing health conditions they have.
In addition, many of the municipalities that are currently considered coronavirus-free – even though most or all residents haven’t been tested – have scant medical infrastructure, meaning that if there was a coronavirus outbreak, their capacity to respond would be limited.
More than half of the 269 municipalities scheduled to reopen are in rural areas and have fewer than 2,500 inhabitants, and therefore infected residents would likely have to travel to seek medical attention.
About 200 of the so-called “municipalities of hope” are in Oaxaca, where only 11% of residents have existing health conditions that put them at increased risk of complications should they contract Covid-19, according to the CMEI. But the health system could still be quickly overwhelmed if there were to be a large outbreak because there are only about 3,000 public hospital beds in the southern state.
One thing the government did not announce on Wednesday was the names of the 269 municipalities, the newspaper El Universal noted.
It said the only way to determine whether a municipality is coronavirus-free and doesn’t border any with confirmed cases is to consult the map developed by the National Council of Science and Technology.
Yet the newspaper identified one municipality in Yucatán that fits the criteria to reopen on Monday but the government of that state said that none of its 106 municipalities qualified. The governments of other states indicated that they hadn’t been advised which municipalities qualified for reopening.
Meanwhile, states and municipalities are free to decide for themselves whether they reopen.
While the federal government is pushing for the coronavirus-free municipalities to do so, President López Obrador stressed that the final decision lies with local authorities.
“If there is a municipal or state government that … decides not to comply with this plan, there will be no controversy. We’re not going to fight,” he said.
Source: El Universal (sp)