‘No presents’: Mexicans urged to embrace abstemious Christmas to stop pandemic

A child greets a person dressed as Santa Claus from inside a vehicle in a drive-thru christmas village, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico

Mexicans should cancel celebrations and even avoid exchanging Christmas presents to beat the coronavirus, the president said on Friday, pitching a frugal festive season to one of the world’s largest capital cities as infections scaled new heights.

“Let’s leave Christmas presents for another time,” President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said, urging people to scale down or forego traditional family gatherings over Christmas and New Year.

Lopez Obrador said people should stay at home unless they had something “truly important to do” as he announced hospitals would increase patient capacity, equipment and staff. However, he said there would be no mandatory lockdowns.

Mexico reported 12,127 new coronavirus infections on Friday, a record number for a single day rise, barring one day in October the government has said was due to a statistical blip. It was also the first time Mexico had recorded more than 10,000 new cases three days in a row.

The president said his proposals to control the virus were especially important for residents of the metropolitan area of Mexico City, a vast sprawl with a population of over 20 million where the festive shopping season has already caused alarm.

On Thursday, crowds converged on Best Buy stores to look for bargains ahead of the company’s planned departure from the country, forcing stores to temporarily close.

Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum on Friday asked businesses to stop employees working from offices and resume work-from-home schemes. Local government would cut operations to a minimum but restaurants in the city could stay open, she said.

Mexico has recorded just over 1.15 million COVID-19 cases and almost 110,000 deaths, the fourth-highest death toll worldwide. Officials acknowledge the true extent of the pandemic is likely significantly higher due to limited testing, while the World Health Organization warned the country was in “bad shape”.

Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell this week said the outbreak would likely get worse until January.

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