A group of Mexican protesters on a border crossing with Arizona blocked southbound lanes Wednesday demanding the Mexican government to require a health screening for travelers entering from the United States to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The Sonorenses Por la Salud y la Vida (Sonorans for Health and Life) parked two trucks in the vehicle lanes leading away from the Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry bridging the twin border cities of Ambo Nogales at 1 PM.
These protesters, donning masks and gloves, held up posters that either read #QuedateEnCasa (#StayHome) or a call to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to up his response to the outbreak.
The leader of the protest, Jose Luis Hernandez said in his statement:
“There are no health screenings by the federal government to deal with this pandemic. That’s why we’re here in Nogales. We’ve taken this action to call on the Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to act now.”
Last week, the U.S. and Mexican governments banned all non-essential travel across the border, with an exception to medical emergencies, work, and school. U.S. Customs and Border Control have increase medical screenings at U.S.-Mexico ports of entry, including the one admitting people into Ambos Nogales, Ariz.
According to a report from USA Today, protesters expressed that Mexican officials haven’t taken the same degree of precaution. The state of Sonora assigned health officials to several border crossings, including the DeConcini Port of Entry, but only has staff stationed at pedestrian lanes.
Nogales International said the Mexican Public Health Secretariat staff have also arranged tables near the border crossing where they give literature about COVID-19, provide hand sanitizers, and offer temperature screenings. However, it is not required to have your temperature taken to pass through a port of entry into Mexico.
The blockade shut down all southbound traffic at the DeConcini Port of Entry for hours until it was eventually reopened around 5:30 p.m., U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials in Nogales said. Officers with the Nogales Police Department redirected traffic to the Mariposa Port of Entry on the west side of the city.
The city of Nogalez, Ariz said in a statement:
“Nogales Police anticipates demonstrations may continue tomorrow. The closure of any Port of Entry will negatively impact commerce and the way of life in Nogales.”
Lopez Obrador halted large private gatherings across Mexico Tuesday, announcing from a video message he posted two days requesting Mexicans to continue to eat out to boost the economy.
In the video, while he’s sitting at a restaurant table in Oaxaca, he said:
“Don’t stop going out, we are still in the first phase.”
“If you can do it and you have the economic possibility, keep taking the family out to eat, to restaurants, to the inns, because that is strengthening the family economy and the popular economy.”
He got a widespread criticism for keeping on hosting large rallies around Mexico, where he shook hands with supporters and kissed babies amid the global coronavirus crisis.
According to John Hopkins University, the U.S. recorded more than 100,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, making it the most infected country in the world. Mexico falls far below that figure – with only at least 475 confirmed cases.
Border towns have expressed concern about transferring the infection across country lines.
The state department of health services said the number of confirmed cases in Arizona rose to over 400 Wednesday, with new cases in Santa Cruz County, where Nogales is located.Meanwhile, Sonora has recorded only 19 cases across the Mexican state.