The organizers of a multi-day festival in Tulum, Quintana Roo, last month — described as a coronavirus superspreading event — have issued an apology.
In a statement to CNN, the organizers of the Art With Me festival said they regretted “not canceling the event entirely.”
Numerous cases of the coronavirus were detected in both Mexico and the United States among people who attended the November 11-15 festival or had contact with someone who did.
The event, which organizers describe as “an international arts, music and cultural festival curated to inspire us to be more connected to ourselves,” published recommendations on its website to prevent the spread of the virus but many attendees ignored them.
Video footage of nighttime parties at hotels, restaurants and cenotes (natural sinkholes) in Tulum show hundreds of maskless people dancing in close proximity to each other.
Marlene Góngora, a 40-year-old Mexican lawyer who attended the festival, told CNN that the risk of infection was far from her mind while she was enjoying the event.
“When people are gathering in front of the DJ, it’s obvious that nobody is wearing a mask because you are at the beach. At that moment, when you’re at a party, you’re not thinking of contagion,” she said.
The festival organizers said they cooperated with authorities to develop health measures that included temperature checks upon entry to venues, the distribution of face masks and their mandatory use “in certain areas.”
But “we learned that we cannot control people from adhering to guidelines, or staying away from other venues in the area that did not adhere to our standards,” they said.
“We stand behind our protocols and are grateful to the Mexican government for their incredible cooperation. However, in the end, we regret not canceling the event entirely. We apologize for any strain this may have caused our already overtaxed healthcare system and front line workers, and we hope others might learn from our experience.”
As of Tuesday, only 311 confirmed coronavirus cases had been detected in the municipality of Tulum compared to more than 7,000 in Benito Juárez, which includes the Quintana Roo resort city of Cancún.
Tulum Mayor Víctor Mas told CNN that up to 300 people are permitted to attend events in the municipality as long as venue capacity limits are adhered to. That allowed the organizers of Art With Me to hold the festival at five venues across Tulum, he said.
Tulum Hotel Association president David Ortiz Mena said that the owners of local hotels, which hosted some of the Art With Me events and accommodated attendees, agreed to comply with coronavirus restrictions including limits on restaurant and bar capacity.
However, he acknowledged that the rules were not always followed.
“Sadly, even though efforts were made both by the organizers of the event and the local government, this event clearly got out of hand,” Ortiz said. “I think the attendees to the event also have a responsibility. Clearly, people are not taking care of themselves.”
The hotel association chief said he was concerned that large events such as Art With Me, and the surrounding negative media coverage, could have an adverse effect on the broader tourism industry in Tulum.
“I think it’s one thing to have tourism, to have our beaches open, to have people visiting Tulum. But … if you do this type of event, it really puts us all at risk, not just the visitors, but our staff, the people who live here,” Ortiz said.
“And at the end of the day, not just human lives, but also the economy. People are supposed be able to make a living and there’s no excuse to put us all at risk. We should avoid this at all cost.”
Another multi-day festival, Zamna, is scheduled to go ahead in Tulum on New Year’s Eve but Mayor Mas said that it and other large events won’t be permitted unless the coronavirus risk level drops to green light “low.”
The risk level in Quintana Roo is currently orange light “high” on the federal government’s coronavirus stoplight system after switching to that color from yellow light “medium” at the start of last week.
Source: CNN (en)