The hip beach town of Tulum, 130 kilometers south of Cancún, continues to attract large numbers of young foreign tourists amid the ongoing pandemic, many of whom don’t comply with basic virus mitigation measures such as mask wearing.
A range of COVID restrictions are in place in the Caribbean coast state of Quintana Roo, where Tulum is located, but enforcement is lax or non-existent in many establishments frequented by tourists, leaving some visitors with the impression that there are few rules they have to follow.
“That’s why we came here, because we knew there were fewer restrictions here … it’s terrible in Europe, you can’t do anything,” a young Spanish woman identified only as Ali told the newspaper Milenio in the beachfront hotel zone.
Her friend Isa agreed with the assessment, describing COVID restrictions in Spain as “awful.”
“[Wearing a face mask] is obligatory, … [Spain] is turning into a dictatorship and we’re not even realizing; well, some of us are realizing,” she said. “… It’s a lot better here, it’s a paradise for us here,” Isa declared.
Milenio spoke with several other young international tourists who expressed little concern about the risk of contracting COVID, despite the surge in case numbers due to the rapid spread of the omicron variant.
“I have to use a mask?” a Russian woman asked incredulously when questioned as to why she wasn’t wearing one.
“Yeah, I just forgot because it’s my vacation and I forgot about mask, about coronavirus; I’m just drinking margaritas everywhere,” Olga said, laughing as she sipped a frozen alcoholic beverage in the street.
“I think it’s not necessary because of the hot weather,” said a Greek woman when asked why she wasn’t wearing a mask.
“I work in Santorini in the summer time so you don’t use a mask so much because the weather is good. I think the COVID is not a big problem,” she said.
“… We go to a party and we want to dance; most of the places here are open so I don’t feel scared. … It is OK for me,” said the woman, who revealed she hadn’t been vaccinated. “… I think we shouldn’t feel afraid or panic. Be careful and that’s that.”
Young people flock to Tulum in January due to the large number of open-air dance parties held in and around the coastal town, including in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.
A state government rule stipulates that the presentation of a vaccination certificate or negative COVID test result is required to attend large events, but it isn’t always enforced in Tulum.
Ali, who had been in Tulum for two weeks when she spoke with Milenio, said those documents are never requested in the hotel zone. At the Day Zero electronic music festival held earlier this month the payment of US $50 enabled attendees to avoid the vaccination/testing requirement, she said.
Tulum tourism official Frank Soto acknowledged that a lot of large parties are held in Tulum in late December and the first half of January. Most attendees are young and “have enough energy to overcome” COVID if they contract the disease, he said.
Soto also said that many young international tourists assert that they don’t need to wear face masks because they are fully vaccinated. “We explain to them that they can still be transmitters [of the virus],” he said.
“I think we’re young and we have to live, enjoy ourselves. Everyone has to be responsible for their actions. You have to decide if you want to wear it [a mask] or not, nobody can force you,” countered Ali, the Spanish tourist. “I respect people who wear it and people who don’t. We must never forget our freedom.”
With reports from Milenio