Photo: El Hospital

By KELIN DILLON

New U.S. President Joe Biden recently signed an executive order, going into effect on Tuesday, Jan. 26, that will require all travelers entering the United States by air to provide proof of a negative coronavirus test taken within 72 hours of departure, followed by self-isolation upon arrival, bringing forth new challenges for foreign tourism in Mexico.

Mexico has yet to implement any medical restrictions on travelers entering the country since the start of the pandemic, in hopes that letting in vacationers will help bolster the country’s now-suffering tourism industry, which accounts for over 8 percent of Mexico’s annual GDP.

Prior to the pandemic, Mexico was raking in over 20 billion dollars a year in revenue from international tourism, numbers impossible to replicate given the current circumstances.

Mexico currently has one of the lowest testing rates for coronavirus in the world, and its lack of an established testing regimen presents issues for travelers that are now required to present certification of a negative test to return back to where they came from.

“Simply meeting the demand of passengers traveling abroad is going to be a terrible problem when testing capacity isn’t up to the necessary level,” Laurie Ann Ximénez-Fyvie, director of the Molecular Genetics Laboratory at Mexico’s Autonomous National University (UNAM)old The Guardian in an interview. “The numbers just don’t add up because the testing capacity in Mexico is far too low.”

While testing centers are widely available in the Mexico City metropolitan area, vacation hotspots like the state of Quintana Roo have fewer options and have only reported hundreds of new tests daily, despite the large influx of tourists in the region, with an average of 15,000 vacationers arriving in Mexico every day. 

Critics also worry that the lack of available testing could create a black market for falsified test results to help tourists skirt-around the restrictions, potentially leading to further spread of the virus.

According to Ximénez-Fyvie, Mexico already has the infrastructure for mass testing, but “the problem here has been the lack of willingness to see that it gets done.”

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), who tested positive for the disease late Sunday, Jan. 24, started his relationship with Biden on rocky terms following his close relationship with former U.S. President Donald Trump, who was widely criticized for his less-than-immediate response to the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, resulting in the deaths of over 400,000 U.S. citizens. AMLO’s lukewarm reception to the Biden administration potentially makes him resistant to mimicking with the new U.S. president’s executive orders, or at least, not in a rush to do so.

Mexico’s vaccine rollout has also faced bountiful issues following López Obrador’s continually changing standards as to who is, and is not, a priority, as well as an unexpected reduction in shipments from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, forcing Mexico to rely on less,tested vaccines from other markets, like China and Russia.

The worldwide death rate for coronavirus currently sits at 3 percent, while Mexico’s own death rate eclipses the average at a dismal 10 percent.

With almost 150,000 inhabitants killed in the country as of Jan. 24, critics are warning that Mexico needs to step up its testing capacity not just for the sake of foreign tourism, but also for the lives and wellbeing of its citizens.

…Jan 25, 2021

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