Mexico frets about U.S. coronavirus spread, could restrict border

Mexico could consider measures at its northern border to slow coronavirus’ spread into its relatively unaffected territory, health officials said on Friday, with an eye to containing a U.S. outbreak that has infected more than 1,800 people.

Mexico has so far confirmed 16 cases of coronavirus with no deaths, a fraction of more than 1,800 cases in the United States, where 41 people have died.

(MEXICO’S ANSWER TO THE CORONAVIRUS: DON’T TEST)

Mexico’s deputy health minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell said contagion from the United States was a threat.

“Mexico wouldn’t bring the virus to the United States, rather the United States would bring it here,” he said at a news conference “The possible flow of coronavirus would come from the north to the south.”

“If it were technically necessary, we would consider mechanisms of restriction or stronger surveillance,” he said.

U.S. President Donald Trump, meanwhile, says coronavirus bolsters his argument for blocking northbound border crossings with a U.S.-Mexico wall.

Trump has long called for a wall on the Mexican border as a way to block migrants from entering the United States, and wrote on Twitter that the barrier is now needed “more than ever” as coronavirus spreads.

“To this point, and because we have had a very strong border policy, we have had 40 deaths related to CoronaVirus. If we had weak or open borders, that number would be many times higher!” Trump tweeted on Friday.

Unlike several other Latin American countries, Mexico has yet to take measures such as closing schools or banning entry to people coming from places with high numbers of coronavirus cases.

However, the private Tecnologico de Monterrey university said on Thursday it would suspend academic and classes from next week until further notice, while Mexico’s National Autonomous University (UNAM) said it would tighten preventative measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz and Daina Beth Solomon; Additional reporting by Stefanie Eschenbacher; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel