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Dry laws, road blocks and curfews on the rise as Yucatan braces for more COVID-19 cases

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The Hospital Regional de Alta Especialidad de la Península de Yucatán is one of three health facilities in Merida qualified to treat COVID-19 patients. Photo: Flickr

Three more coronavirus cases were confirmed in Yucatan as the state adjusts to a tightening of restrictions around which businesses are allowed to operate.

As of Wednesday morning, 49 people had contracted COVID-19, most exhibiting mild symptoms and recovering at home in isolation. At least 20 of those cases were closed when the patients were given a clean bill of health.

With limited access to testing, it is unlikely the official counts reflects the real number of cases.

The governor on Tuesday ordered non-essential businesses shut down, leaving mainly grocery stores, pharmacies allowed to stay open. (More details here.) Restaurant dining rooms were ordered closed, allowing only for home-delivery. Bars and nightclubs, and other recreational and cultural facilities have been closed two weeks. Gatherings from birthday parties to the FILEY book fair and the international tourism conference, have been postponed. The tourism industry has cratered as merchants were looking forward to Easter holiday revenue to make up for a pause in cruise-ship visits.

Health checks at the airport and bus stations have been spotty, passengers have reported on Facebook.

State police are patrolling streets and motoring from at least two helicopters to ensure order.

More towns bans alcohol

Valladolid, Chicxulub, Temozón, Izamal and Motul decreed dry laws, ending alcohol sales. The municipalities join Progreso and Dzidzantún, which already established a “ley seca” in response to the coronavirus crisis.

Most towns in Yucatan, including the capital city Merida, still allow alcohol sales. False news reports five days ago had whipped up social media when a homemade graphic appeared to be an official notice establishing a dry law in Merida with no advance notice.

Nearly 60 percent of the Mexican labor force works in a cash economy — as independently employed plumbers, gardeners and food vendors, for example — and have little or no savings.

Quarantines have thrown already-struggling families into economic distress. Town leaders say that banning alcohol sales reduces instances of violence under trying times. It also discourages tourists from visiting from other regions, possibly spreading the virus.

Parks and other public spaces were also closed at night, while some municipalities have established a 10 p.m. curfew altogether.

Access to beach homes

Security has been particularly tight at the beach, where road blocks ensure vacationers stay away. Residents wishing to reach their homes in Chelem, Telchac or any other beach community are likely to be asked to show identification or a utility bill to indicate home ownership.

Residents on social media were nervous about grocery shopping excursions. Others have started online charity drives to help locals whose income flow was cut off.

Reporting a possible new case

Residents who suspect coronavirus should stay at home and call the state hotline, 800-YUCATAN, or 800-982-2826, and press 9 for an English-speaking attendant. A medical professional will visit for an assessment so that a possible new case is contained.

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