Residents of the town of Sonoyta in Mexico across from Lukeville, Arizona, briefly blocked the main road leading south from the U.S. border over the weekend over fears of coronavirus outbreaks.
Arizona has seen a major upsurge in infections and there were worries about intensified contagion during the July 4 weekend.
The mayor of Sonoyta, Jose Ramos Arzate, issued a statement Saturday “inviting U.S. tourists not to visit Mexico.”
Local residents organized to block the road with their cars on the Mexican side Saturday.
Video posted by residents showed several travellers complaining that they had a right to cross because they were Mexican citizens. The road is the quickest route to the seaside resort of Puerto Penasco, also known as Rocky Point.
Ramos Arzate wrote that people from the United States should only be allowed in “for essential activities, and for that reason, the checkpoint and inspection point a few meters from the Sonoyta-Lukeville AZ crossing will continue operating.”
“We had agreed on this in order to safeguard the health of our community in the face of an accelerated rate of COVID-19 contagion in the neighbouring state of Arizona,” Ramos Arzate wrote.
“It is our duty as municipal authorities to protect the health of our town.”
Mexico and the United States agreed previously to limit border crossings to essential activities, but up until this week, that had mainly been enforced for people entering the United States, not the other way.
Residents of Sonoyta demanded health checks on incoming visitors, better health care facilities and broader testing.
There has been some resentment that tourists, but not local residents, had reportedly been allowed into Puerto Penasco, where many banks and other services are located.
In view of continued high infection rates and deaths in Mexico, some state are backpedaling on reopening businesses. For example, the Mexico City government said Sunday that more streets in the city’s colonial-era downtown would be closed to traffic but open to pedestrians.
The city already allows businesses with even-numbered addresses to open one day, and odd-numbered businesses the next.
But on Sunday the city proposed a new, voluntary measure to reduce crowds downtown: officials asked people whose last names begin with the letters A to L to shop on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Those whose names begin with the letters M to Z would be encouraged to shop Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. There was no proposal to enforce the rule.