As of May 24, 2020, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Mexico surpassed 68 thousand, Mexico City being the federate entity with the highest number of cases. Unfortunately, 7,394 deaths had been reported nationwide as of that date. These figures may not sound so alarming considering that the first case in the country was reported on February 29, but the low testing rate is believed to be the main reason. So far, the Under-Secretary of Health, Hugo López-Gatell, announced that a massive testing campaign had not been launched for the time being, assuring that the relationship between the number of tests carried out and the containment of the disease had not been ascertained. These measures are contrary to those taken by other countries as South Korea and Germany, where a more extensive application of tests seems to be having good results in the fight against the pandemic.
The initial position taken by the President Andrés Manuel López Obrador regarding the pandemic was not well received by the Mexican public or international media. The Mexican head of state seemed to ignore his experts by shaking hands publicly, holding rallies and even trying to minimize the severity of the situation in public press conferences. However, the government ended up declaring a national health emergency on March 30. Since that day, all non-essential activities in the public and private sectors would be suspended, reinforcing the social distancing actions implemented a few weeks prior.
It is still uncertain whether the COVID-19 lockdown will bring economic stress to the second largest economy in Latin America. Inevitably, the preventive actions put most economic activities on halt. The coronavirus outbreak, the global fall of oil prices and the ensuing Mexican peso devaluation have been hitting the Mexican Stock Exchange hard. The IPC, Mexico’s most important stock exchange index, has experienced an almost 20 percent loss in value since early February 2020. This financial turmoil has also reduced Mexico’s expectations of economic growth. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Mexico’s forecasted gross domestic product for 2020 fell by almost three percentage points in comparison to December 2019 estimates.
The restrictions enforced by the government to control the spread of the virus have had a direct impact on Mexicans’ everyday life. A significant part of the labor force has now adopted home office practices, which was not so common in the country in previous years. With more time to spend at home, an increased demand for news in social media has been detected. Consumer behavior among Mexicans has been affected as well, with an increase in sales of personal care products such as antibacterial gel, soap, and toilet paper. Visits to shopping malls and stores have sharply decreased and most people with plans to travel in Easter have put their holiday trips on halt.