Mexican Deputy Health Secretary Hugo Lopez-Gatell has said authorities would consider mechanisms to control the flow of people entering Mexico from the United States in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
“The possible flow of coronavirus would come from the north to the south. If it were technically necessary, we would consider mechanisms of restriction or stronger surveillance,” Lopez-Gatell said at a news conference on Thursday.
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Mexico has so far confirmed 15 cases of coronavirus with no deaths, a fraction of the more than 1,000 cases in the US, where more than 40 confirmed deaths have resulted from the virus. That has led some in Mexico to see contagion from the US as a threat.
The spread of the virus turned the usual US-Mexico border issue on its head. The administration of US President Donald Trump has pushed for limiting crossings along the border since his 2016 campaign. Earlier this month, he floated the idea of closing the US’s land borders due to the coronavirus, but reversed course just days later.
Health officials in the US have warned that a lack of concerted efforts to stop community spread of the coronavirus inside the country could pose significant health risks.
California has seen at least 50 cases and four deaths since the outbreak of the virus. No cases are confirmed in bordering Baja California, a Mexican state.
Some health experts have cautioned that the number of confirmed cases in Mexico is artificially low due to a lack of testing in both countries, according to the Reuters news agency.
Lopez-Gatell denied there were further cases circulating inside Mexico at the news conference.
The pandemic’s global death toll has reached almost 5,000, while the global number of cases has surpassed 132,000, according to the United Nations’ health agency. About 68,000 victims have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking the virus.
While China and South Korea, another country hit hard by the virus, have announced a slowing of new cases in recent days, European states are closing borders and preparing for a strain on public health resources.
Trump announced a ban on travel from nations in Europe’s open-border Schengen zone, beginning on Saturday. The ban does not apply to US citizens or legal residents.
It will also allow UK citizens to travel to the US. The UK has documented at least 500 cases of the virus.
Trump heralded the travel restrictions as strong steps to contain the virus, while public health officials have questioned their efficacy.