Jason Holland – IL Roving Latin America Editor
COVID-19, aka the Coronavirus, has been spreading rapidly around the world. Here in Mexico confirmed cases are growing but have so far been low. That’s expected to change, of course. With limited tests available, there could be a lot more infected people out there that just haven’t been diagnosed.
With that backdrop, what’s it like to be in Mexico right now?
Restaurants are closing or open for delivery or carryout only. Government offices are limiting open hours and sending older employees home. Events are being rescheduled or canceled. School is out for at least the next month. And the government is encouraging people to not gather in groups and to stay home, if possible.
Is Public Transport Still Running in Mexico?
But buses are running, stores are open (with employees in face masks and spraying disinfectant on grocery carts at the entrance), people are going to work, and in many ways life goes on. So far there hasn’t been any panic buying, I’m happy to say, and no shortages of any products. We’ll have to see if that changes in the coming weeks, as the virus is expected to have a greater impact towards the end of March.
There is no official lockdown yet. But many people, out of a sense of duty and community, are isolating themselves in their homes anyway. That’s what my family and I are doing—going out only as needed. Based on what we’ve heard from public health officials, we feel it’s the best way to protect those most vulnerable to this virus. We don’t want to spread it to our elderly neighbors—or get sick ourselves. We feel ready. We’ve stocked up on essentials—no hoarding!
Staying home is so far not bad. I work from a home office. And my kids used to be homeschooled. So we were pretty prepared already. In our free time, we’ve been reading, playing board games, chatting with friends around the world facing the same crisis via Facebook, Skype, and text, and watching Netflix. We plan to watch all the Star Wars movies in order—one a day. As long as the Internet works, we’re set.
Expats Living in Mexico
The expat population in Mexico leans heavily towards older folks and many of them have medical conditions that put them in the high-risk group. And there are expat communities throughout the country. From my contacts in places like Puerto Vallarta, the Riviera Maya, and beyond, people are being cautious and concerned, but not panicking. There is a feeling of the community coming together.
However, some expats are leaving the country. Many are canceling trips or their returns back to Mexico, if they live here full or part-time. I would recommend anybody planning a trip to Mexico postpone. This will have a huge impact on the Mexican economy, which leans heavily on tourism. But that’s just the reality.
Is the Healthcare System in Mexico Prepared?
Medical care in Mexico is low-cost and high-quality. However, as in many countries, I think the private and public healthcare systems will be stretched very thin if there is a serious outbreak. There aren’t enough tests to go around or equipment for those who become ill. That’s why prevention and social distancing is so important.
As far as the next step, we’re playing it by ear. Currently, there are no travel restrictions in or out of Mexico. We’d prefer to stay in the country, as this is our home. This could change based on the severity of the impact of the virus in Mexico and what happens in the U.S.