Mexico is doubling down on its public health message to avoid big crowds to avert a second wave of coronavirus infections as annual festivities approach, including the Day of the Dead, that traditionally draws hundreds of thousands of people nationwide.
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The Nov. 1-2 Day of the Dead celebration blends Catholic rituals and the pre-Hispanic belief that the dead return once a year from the underworld as cemeteries, public gardens and houses light up in the bright, orange color of planted marigold.
Authorities have said cemeteries will remain closed and the government of Mexico City, the country’s largest metropolis, warn that tighter coronavirus curbs may be on their way as hospitalizations rise in the sprawling capital.
From a public health standpoint, Mexico’s cemeteries “become areas of high risk for contagion” during the annual celebration, Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell said at a news conference on Tuesday. “The recommendation is to avoid crowds.”
Still, some Mexicans lament not being able to commemorate the day.
“Every year we go to see my mother. This is the first since she died that we’re not going to go and it’s very sad,” said 49-year-old Claudia Morales in the municipality of Ocotlan, in the central state of Tlaxcala.
A representative from the rural community of Tlaxcala state’s Cuaxomulco said authorities there decided not to close the cemetery after public outrage.
Another “high risk opportunity” for infections is the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe on Dec. 12, said Lopez-Gatell, as annually upwards of 3 million pilgrims flock to the Catholic basilica in Mexico City to honor the nation’s patron saint.
Both festivities, along with Christmas, come as the weather is turning colder and authorities fear an uptick in contagion.