The North American country breaks the barrier of 1,000 cases and expands social distancing measures to stop the epidemic.

Mexico has decreed this Monday the state of sanitary emergency by Covid-19 and has extended the suspension of non-essential activities in the public and private sector until April 30, 10 days more than expected in previous days. The measures are mandatory, according to official sources, but the way it has been communicated, appealing to the responsibility of the citizens, as if it were a suggestion, has generated a lot of confusion. The implications and details of the plan are not yet clear until they are published in the Official Gazette of the Federation, the official government bulletin, expectedly this Tuesday morning.

Mexico already registers 28 deaths and 1,094 confirmed cases of coronavirus , eight deaths and 101 more infections than the previous day. Given the acceleration of infections, the Government has decided to apply more drastic measures: it has restricted the meetings of more than 50 attendees and all people in Mexican territory are urged to take shelter in their homes, with special emphasis on the elderly population 60 years, pregnant women and other risk groups for the epidemic. While for companies the measures become mandatory, for the mobility of citizens it is more flexible and at the moment it is an “emphatic invitation”, according to official sources.

The press conference in which the measures were announced has left a hardening in the government’s discourse in the face of the pandemic, but doubts about the implementation of these measures have also multiplied, more than a month after the first case detected and three weeks after the contagion curve “accelerated”, according to what the health authorities said. It is not yet clear who will be affected by the measures; who will see to it that they are followed; sanctions for the population that does not abide by the guidelines or provisions that must be coordinated with state and municipal authorities. Until this Monday, several governments in the states of the country have decreed restrictions for schools, meeting centers and businesses on their own.

“The health emergency is declared due to force majeure,” said the chancellor, Marcelo Ebrard , after reading a decree representing the president. The seven new measures to reinforce social distancing also include the postponement of the population census, which started on March 2, and the staggered return to activities. The announcement came after a meeting of the Health Council, a collegiate body representing the highest health authority and reporting directly to the Executive. The Secretary of Health, Jorge Alcocer, and the government spokesman for the epidemic, Hugo López-Gatell, attended the press conference .

There was also the head of the Interior (Interior), Olga Sánchez Cordero, as well as Rafael Ojeda and Luis Crescencio Sandoval, chiefs of the Navy and the Army, called to play a leading role in the emergency plan. The representatives of the Armed Forces have put forward a plan to reinforce the health infrastructure that depends on the Army, as well as support to guarantee the supply of food for the most vulnerable sectors of the population and the safeguarding of strategic sites.

The representatives of the Armed Forces have recognized that they still need 10 days to prepare the infrastructure that depends on their Secretariats. Neither have clear figures been released on the procurement of materials and equipment necessary to deal with the epidemic. The decree has issued instructions for more than a dozen Secretaries of State, without that implying specific provisions, rather they are thematic axes of actions that they have to take under their jurisdiction.

At the conference it was said that the only activities that are maintained are hospital, security, justice, and legislative work. Ebrard has affirmed that administrative sanctions are contemplated and even that criminal responsibilities be established for those who do not respect the measures. There are also penalties for companies that do not respect the restrictions and labor rights of their employees. “We are going to have a difficult month, but if we do not have it, perhaps it will be a year, it is choosing what we want to do,” said Ebrard.

“We are already in a phase of promotion, we should not miss this opportunity to mitigate transmission,” said López-Gatell. The government hopes that if the strategy succeeds, its epidemic curve will reach its highest point in late May. The least optimistic scenario is that if the distancing measures are not followed, contagions will peak in April. “Stay at home, stay at home, stay at home,” said the spokesman. “The emergency declaration does not imply a state of emergency,” stressed López-Gatell.

Tonight’s announcement marks a drastic turn in government speech to mitigate the spread of the virus. The president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has announced that on April 5 he will present a series of measures to revive the economy after the collapse of oil prices and the value of the peso against the dollar. From the plan it is known that it contemplates a million credits for small companies, both in the informal and formal sectors, although the amount has not been detailed. As announced by the president, the program may also contemplate new sanitary measures.

Mexico continues to be one of the few countries on the continent, along with Nicaragua, where no compulsory mobility restrictions have been imposed on citizens. López Obrador has ruled out that there are curfews or greater attributions to the Army, and his Government has opted for a gradual approach that launches preventive actions, anticipating that the stage of epidemic contagions will arrive in the coming days. The country’s strategy has been praised by regional and international representatives of the World Health Organization, although they have urged that stricter measures be taken when the spread worsens and despite the fact that every day, questions from critical sectors increase. With the epicenter of the pandemic installed in the United States Since last weekend, the government’s heterodoxy will be tested again.