EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — Mexico today announced a phased-in reopening of its economy beginning on Monday.
The return to the “new normal” after a two-month partial shutdown includes a color-coded status for each state, depending on whether COVID-19 infections trend up or down, Secretary of Economy Gabriela Marquez said.
The “green, yellow, orange and red” activity markers are similar to well-known pollution control measures implemented in Mexico City that determine, for instance, how many cars can be out and about on a given day. In this case, red means only essential activities take place, orange allows work in a wide range of “essential” businesses, yellow urges people to take precautions and restricts capacity inside buildings, and green means no restrictions.
“Observing safe distance has helped us flatten the curve (of COVID-19 contagion) but we need to prepare for a new normal reality,” Marquez said during a news conference on YouTube. “We need to provide certainty, clarity and safety to our citizens, workers and local governments. The plan is gradual, orderly and cautious.”
She said businesses on Wednesday can begin preparations for reopening. This includes rearranging workspaces to provide employees and customers a safe distance, procuring cleaning materials and implementing an orderly entrance and exit of people to their buildings.
By Monday, essential businesses can reopen. The construction industry, mining and factories that manufacture vehicle parts are now classified as essential businesses. These include maquiladoras along the border with the United States that make parts and components for Michigan automakers. By June 1, all businesses can reopen observing precautions according to the color designation in their state, which will be updated weekly by the Ministry of Health.
Schools and social activity can also resume on that date.
In Juarez, Maquiladora Association President Pedro Chavira told Diario de Juarez he expects more than half of the city’s U.S.-run manufacturing plants to reopen on Monday, albeit at around 25% of their capacity.
Chavira said the industry is hoping the government will soon allow the opening of textile plants, packing and supply operations that are essential to the industry. Maquiladoras employ a quarter of a million people in Juarez and possibly 2 million in Mexico.
Each industry will have to observe cleaning, hygiene and workplace standards approved by the government.
Health officials in Juarez said the state of Chihuahua will not be a “green” state for some time and urged businesses, workers and customers to continue exercising extreme care.
“Given the behavior of the epidemic in the state, we are still on an upward trend. This is not the moment (to reopen businesses). Let’s see if we can bring stability to the state in the next 15 days, but that will depend on people remaining home” for now, said Dr. Leticia Ruiz, head of prevention for the Chihuahua state Health Department in Juarez.
On Wednesday, Juarez reported five new COVID-19 deaths to bring its total to 128 fatalities and 553 confirmed cases. Mayor Armando Cabada has placed the city on a virtual lockdown until Monday and his police officers have seized at least 148 vehicles from drivers who couldn’t prove they were out on essential business like procuring food or medicines.
Chihuahua Gov. Javier Corral said he expects businesses in his state to reopen by June 1, but with safeguards such as employees wearing facemasks, observing strict hygiene protocols and possibly even taking the temperature of customers coming in to prevent the entry of sick people.
“We will do this when we are sure that the (COVID-19) curve is down in Chihuahua,” he said. “Not at the height (of the pandemic), not when we flatten the curve, but exactly when we know that we have a downward tendency” in COVID-19 infections.