Panic buying is taking hold in cities in northern border states as fear grows that a widespread outbreak of novel coronavirus Covid-19 is nigh, while some large events have been postponed and the cancellation of others is being considered.
Supermarkets in Monterrey, Mexicali, Tijuana and Nuevo Laredo all saw large numbers of shoppers on Thursday as people sought to stock up on essentials a day after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Covid-19 a global pandemic.
While there were still fewer than 20 confirmed cases of the infectious disease in Mexico as of Friday morning, there were more than 1,600 in the United States, including more than 250 in California, which borders Baja California.
In addition to stocking up on food, most shoppers in northern cities were also buying bottled water, soap and toilet paper, the newspaper Reforma reported. Long lines were seen at supermarket checkouts as consumers waited to pay for large numbers of items crammed into their shopping carts.
Residents of Tijuana are concerned about confirmed cases of coronavirus in San Diego and Los Angeles, while those in Mexicali are more worried about two cases in El Centro, California, located just 20 kilometers from the Baja California capital.
There are also confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the three other U.S. states that share a border with Mexico – Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
Photographs and footage of people panic buying at supermarkets in California is influencing the behavior of residents of neighboring Baja California, the newspaper La Jornada reported. Amid the growing concern about the possibility of Covid-19 crossing the border, the Baja California Health Ministry called on people to keep calm.
Farther east, Mexican immigration and customs officials working at border crossings in Chihuahua are taking greater precautions since the WHO pandemic declaration. Sergio Madero, head of the agency responsible for border crossings in the state, said that all personnel have been given face masks and gloves to reduce their risk of being exposed to Covid-19.
Meanwhile, organizers of large events are assessing whether to go ahead with them, postpone them or cancel them altogether in the face of a potential widespread outbreak.
The International Tennis Federation said on Thursday that the San Luis Open Challenger tournament that was scheduled to take place in San Luis Potosí from April 6-12 will not be held until the week starting April 20 at the earliest.
Federal Tourism Secretary Miguel Torruco announced on Tuesday that the Tianguis Turistico – Latin America’s largest tourism industry event – would be held in Mérida, Yucatan, from September 19-22 rather than March 22-25.
Organizers of the Guadalajara International Film Festival announced today that the event, scheduled for March 20-27, has been postponed. No new date has been set for the 35th annual festival.
The organizers of the Tabasco Fair, scheduled to take place April 30 to May 10, said that they are continuing with preparations but are alert to the instructions of authorities. They stressed that people’s health would be prioritized.
Zacatecas Governor Alejandro Tello said that the possibility of canceling a cultural festival scheduled to run April 4-14 will be evaluated by health authorities, while Oaxaca Governor Alejandro Murat announced that a half marathon scheduled for this Saturday has been called off.
Another event that could be postponed or canceled is the San Marcos Fair, the largest fair in Latin America, scheduled for April 17 to May 10 in Aguascalientes. The Pa’l Norte 2020 music festival scheduled for March 20 and 21 in Monterrey was still going ahead as of Thursday but lawmakers and others in Nuevo León were calling on the state government to cancel it.
Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell said Thursday that the spread of Covid-19 could force the postponement or cancellation of as many as 8,000 events but stressed that the government will aim to ensure that there is not “unnecessary damage to the economy.”
He said that community transmission of Covid-19 – which has spread to more than 100 countries around the world after originating in Wuhan, China, late last year – could begin in Mexico within 15 days.