Social distancing is society’s foremost weapon against the coronavirus pandemic but while many in Mexico have heeded the call to keep their distance from each other, some have not.
Young couples in parks and plazas in parts of Mexico City and México state are openly flouting the government’s “healthy distance” recommendations, according to a report by the newspaper El Universal, at least one beach in Veracruz remained busy over the weekend and customers at many street food stalls continue to chow down on snacks such as tacos and tortas while standing or seated cheek by jowl.
Those still using public transportation in the capital are finding buses and subway cars much emptier than usual but nevertheless cannot always maintain the recommended 1.5 meters of separation – or choose not to.
In a park in the eastern Mexico City borough of Iztacalco, one woman canoodling with her boyfriend told El Universal that she thought the social distancing measures put in place by the government were too extreme.
Identified only as Susana, the woman said that she didn’t know anyone with Covid-19 and that she believed it was a hoax.
“There’s no disease, they made it up … If there was a disease, I would already know someone who died,” she said before declaring “nothing will happen,” a remark that echoes the words uttered by President López Obrador in the first half of March when recommending that people continue hugging each other.
“They’re asking us to stay at home but we’re taking advantage of our free time to be together,” said Susana, who ironically shares her name with the cartoon superhero heroine, Susana Distancia (Your Healthy Distance), created by the government to help disseminate the social distancing message.
Over the weekend, many more people decided to defy the government’s order to stay at home and instead enjoy a day out at the beach in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz. The newspaper Milenio reported that Playa Villa del Mar near the port city of Veracruz was packed on Friday, Saturday and Sunday with both revelers and vendors offering products such as swimming suits, food and alcoholic beverages.
Although the federal government has ordered the closure of beaches to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, no municipal, state or federal security forces sought to enforce the rule at Villa del Mar on the weekend.
Municipal authorities explained that they didn’t have the authority to ask people to leave because Mexico’s beaches are classified as federal zones. The state government said that it would move people on from beaches but despite its stated intention failed to do so at Villa del Mar.
Back in the capital, some non-essential businesses – including hair salons, tattoo parlors, repair shops and car washes – have defied the government’s order to close in boroughs including Iztacalco, Iztapalapa and Coyoacán and many street vendors continue to ply their trade on the streets of the capital and in the México state municipalities of Toluca, Metepec and Zinacantepec.
Workers who spoke with El Universal said that they couldn’t afford not to work, a situation that makes strict social distancing measures less viable in Mexico than some other countries.
President López Obrador on Friday ruled out any possibility of implementing “draconian measures” such as a curfew to contain the spread of Covid-19, while he said two weeks ago that he wanted to avoid a complete shutdown of the economy because it would disproportionately hurt the poor.