In order to emphasize the importance of wearing face masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, city officials in Toluca, México state, placed masks on 44 statues and monuments on Tuesday.
The move comes after the local council approved a new law that takes effect this week requiring the mandatory use of masks in public as the city eases some coronavirus restrictions. The state remains in the red on the federal government’s coronavirus “stoplight” map, meaning that it continues to be at maximum risk.
People not wearing masks in businesses, public transportation and on city streets could face fines ranging from 865 to 2,607 pesos (US $38 to $115) and 12 to 23 hours in jail.
“The initiative seeks to raise awareness among the population about the importance of using masks and to motivate people to protect themselves from the virus because according to health institutions, their use increases the effectiveness in preventing infections by up to 80%,” the city government said in a statement.
Mayor Juan Rodolfo Sánchez Gómez argued that masks are a tool that can reduce the risk of viral transmission, and should be worn not only during the maximum, high and intermediate-risk stages of the pandemic but as a permanent measure when out in public, calling it a new habit that residents should integrate into their daily lives.
Enforcement of the new mandatory mask law will start with a warning, with fines imposed on the second occurrence and jail time upon the third. Names of offenders will be recorded in a database.
This “intense and unprecedented” campaign to safeguard Toluca residents comes as the city has seen a recent surge in the number of cases, officials say, reiterating that prevention is the most important tool in battling the spread of the coronavirus and frequent hand washing and social distancing must also continue.
As of Tuesday, the state had registered 39,108 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 4,894 deaths.