MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico will suspend all large public and private gatherings for a month as it attempts to contain the spread of coronavirus, while extending support to small businesses, government officials said on Tuesday.
Speaking at a regular news briefing, Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell said Mexico has seen an increase in non-imported coronavirus cases and the government will step up mitigation measures.
“We have decided to temporarily suspend events with 100 people or more,” Lopez-Gatell said. “All gatherings – public, private, governmental, social – must be avoided throughout the month.”
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador also suggested that the titans of Mexican industry are stepping up, noting that billionaire Carlos Slim told him that he will not lay off any workers during the coronavirus crisis. A spokesman for Slim’s companies did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Lopez Obrador has received criticism for his relatively relaxed response to the coronavirus so far. During the news conference Tuesday morning, his cabinet ministers stood on stage in a neat line, failing to respect the 1.5-meter (5-foot) distance recommended by the health ministry.
Nevertheless, Lopez-Gatell stressed Mexico would intensify measures now that the virus has begun spreading through “community transmission,” rather than simply people returning to Mexico after traveling to countries hit hard by the disease.
To address the economic fallout from the coronavirus, the government will give 1 million low-interest loans to small businesses in the country, Lopez Obrador said.
He also stressed that the government has enough resources to maintain social programs and confront falling oil prices, as well as to proceed with signature projects such as the Mayan train and a refinery near the southern port of Dos Bocas.
Reporting by Raul Cortes and Anthony Esposito; Writing by Julia Love; Editing by Sandra Maler
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