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Is Mexico Recovering from the Pandemic?

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City square in Campeche, Mexico
Credit: Eddygaleotti | Bigstock

We get a lot of questions from mainly Americans who want to know if it is safe to visit or move to Mexico. Is Mexico recovering from the pandemic? It’s too soon to know.

Puerto Vallarta and the rest of Mexico is on the brink of Semana Santa, or Holy Week, which drives Mexicans to not only the church of their choice, but the warmth of the country’s beautiful beaches.

This year, though, things are a bit different. Mexico’s Health Ministry warns of a possible third wave of the coronavirus after a decline of hospitalizations and deaths for the past six weeks.

Mexico, with a population of 126,000,000, has an official death count of just under 200,000. The U.S. has suffered 542,000 deaths within its population of nearly 330,000,000. Both countries are seeing similar recent declines in Covid-19 infections.

The U.S., buoyed by a rapidly increasing vaccinated population, appears to be on a good trajectory. The worry, however, is that the country is relaxing its restrictions too quickly. Airline bookings, for instance, are up significantly, including travel to Mexico, especially spring-breakers.

Meanwhile, Mexican authorities continue to keep restrictions in place, especially for Semana Santa, which is Mexico’s equivalent to spring break in Florida, in terms of crowds. For example, here in my hometown of Puerto Vallarta, the State of Jalisco’s governor has issued specific guidelines to keep everyone safe, including: prohibiting processions, pilgrimages and celebrations that create crowds; restricting beach use to 5 a.m. to 5 p.m.; closing restaurants and bars by 11 p.m.; ensuring hotels maintain a capacity of just 66 percent; and, increased testing at public transportation sites.

If you’re planning on a spring vacation in Mexico, be prepared to abide restrictions and health protocols. And yes, we still wear masks in public.

When will things get better? Well, health officials say not until three-fourths of those who live in Mexico are vaccinated or have immunity from contracting the disease. The government’s best estimate on when everyone who wants to be vaccinated will be vaccinated is sometime next year.

Unlike the U.S., the vaccination rollout program in Mexico is glacially slow, with emphasis on, as in the U.S., seniors and healthcare workers first. So far, officials say about 3.4 percent have been vaccinated with one shot, while just 0.5 percent have received two shots.

Felice and I are among the one-shoters. We both received our initial dose of the Pfizer vaccine in February at the local Naval Hospital and were scheduled to receive the second dose on Friday, March 19, four-weeks after our first inoculation. But it never happened because vaccine was not available. We have been told that the emphasis now is on getting as many people vaccinated as possible by increasing the interval from what Pfizer recommends – four-weeks between shots – to as long as 50 days between shots. The CDC says the interval can be up to 42 days. Is 50 days stretching it a bit too far? We will see.

Kudos, though, to the Mexican Navy’s handling of the initial vaccinations. Well-organized and professional. There were about 15 locations in Puerto Vallarta set-up to vaccinate residents over 65 years of age in February during a five-day period.

The U.S. reportedly has agreed to provide additional doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which may help get everyone vaccinated sooner than later. Besides Pfizer, Mexico is also using vaccines from Russia and China and will be using Novavax and, hopefully, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the future.

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