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What does a return to school mean for Mexico’s COVID-19 recovery?

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Some students in Mexico already returned to in-person learning but were forced to return home by surging COVID-19 infections in their states. Photo: Courtesy

As the beginning of Mexico’s school year looms, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador says a return to in-person education does not pose a threat.

But the president’s critics say that the data and previous experience do not support his optimistic claims.

“It is very important that our children are able to return to school, there is no real substitute for in-person learning,” said López Obrador during a press conference earlier today. 

While most people agree that a return to classrooms is desirable,  not everyone is convinced that the move is yet safe given the state of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

Earlier this year, Campeche began and then canceled a back-to-school program after infection rates began to surge.

Although Mexico continues to strive towards universal COVID-19 vaccination, only 16.5% of its population is fully inoculated against the virus.

Even if that percentage were to double by the end of the summer holidays, many fear that yet another surge of infections and deaths would be unavoidable if students returned to classrooms. 

Earlier: Xcaret struggles to contain new COVID-19 infections

In some states, the number of people showing up at vaccination centers has been extremely low. One of these states, Chiapas, has now begun a program that allows young people to get vaccinated early if they bring two people over the age of 60 with them. 

COVID-19 infections resulting in severe symptoms or death in children remain relatively low in Mexico. But critics of the government note that updated figures have not been published since April. At that time, the number of children who had perished due to COVID-19 was around 600 nationwide. 

In Yucatán, Gov. Mauricio Vila Dosal has said that students can expect to return to classrooms in late August — but noted that plans may change if the situation continues to deteriorate

The US State Department urged its citizens Wednesday to avoid travel to six Mexican states experiencing a “third wave” of COVID-19 infections. Included in this list are Colima, Guerrero, Michoacán, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas, and Quintana Roo.

To date, Mexico has reported 2.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 236,230 deaths. 

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