Mexico has, so far, resisted Trump Administration efforts to restrict or close portions of the United States-Mexico border over concerns about illegal immigration but, this weekend, Mexican authorities, concerned about the spread of coronavirus, are reportedly considering shutting the border themselves to prevent the infection from affecting Mexican border cities.
Speaking to press on Friday, Mexico’s health minister called the United States a “danger” to Mexicans who have yet to suffer from coronavirus in large numbers. The country has only 26 confirmed cases and no deaths, though that number could climb considerably. The United States has around 2,000 confirmed cases and there have been around 50 deaths so far from the virus.
“If it were technically necessary to consider mechanisms of restriction or stronger surveillance we would have to take into account not that Mexico would bring the virus to the United States, rather that the United States could bring it here,” Mexican Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell said, according to Reuters.
Lopez-Gatell did not provide media with any further details on which “mechanisms” of restriction the country was considering, or whether those “mechanisms” could include a border wall. Further questions to the country’s health ministers, from Reuters and others, were left unanswered.
Although it’s taken Mexico some time — and a new threat — to come around to the idea of further restricting access across the U.S.-Mexico border, the Trump Administration seemed happy to learn that Mexico might be open to the possibility of increased border interdiction or even a border wall.
“Because we have had a very strong border policy, we have had 40 deaths related to CoronaVirus. If we had weak or open borders, that number would be many times higher!” President Donald Trump tweeted earlier this weekend, suggesting that curbing the spread of coronavirus is yet another argument for a wall across the entire southern border.
The United States ambassador to Mexico added that a new policy would be mutually beneficial to both the U.S. and Mexico, per Reuters.
“For both countries, it doesn’t benefit us to have completely open borders,” ambassador Christopher Landau said. “We see it now with the virus, and hopefully we can work closely together because in health issues, political parties and borders aren’t important.”
The United States has now declared a state of emergency and most cities are restricting movement, closing schools, banning gatherings of more than 100 – 250 people, and encouraging residents to “self-quarantine” or practice “social distancing” in order to slow the spread of coronavirus. The U.S. joined France, Spain, and Italy Saturday in imposing lockdowns, though the U.S. has yet to move toward aggressive enforcement of self-quarantine. Italy, particularly, has mobilized law enforcement to ensure people remain indoors amid concerns that Italians, despite huge jumps in confirmed cases and a health care system clearly under seige, are still not obeying “social distancing” orders.
Mexico has yet to implement any concrete policies on the subject, but several major events, like the Guadalajara Film Festival, have been canceled, and the Tecnologico de Monterrey university has canceled classes. The government is encouraging organizations to suspend “non-essential services.”