The Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus is causing a third wave in some of Mexico’s biggest tourist destinations, including Cancun.
COVID-19 has hit Mexico hard over the last 18 months. After the first confirmed cases in late February 2020, there was an initial downplaying of the potential impact on Mexico. However, Cancun and the whole of Quintana Roo’s Mexican Caribbean were effectively closed down in Spring 2020 due to growing case numbers and deaths.
By early June 2020, the region officially re-opened to tourism, albeit with caveats and restrictions on hotels, restaurants, and tourist attractions. Since then, Mexico has seen increasing numbers of tourists, thanks to its no-restrictions policy for foreign visitors. During the last month, officials have been celebrating the comeback of the region’s tourism. And cruises have become active once more, after a year-long hiatus.
With this no-restrictions policy, and the growing confidence that the worst is over, international travel to Mexico has quickly begun to increase in popularity again. Summer has arrived and Cancun Airport’s immigration hall has been full. Two million visitors arrived in June alone, ready to put COVID behind them and let off some steam.
The Delta Variant
But – unfortunately – the Delta variant has now arrived. First recorded in India, the Delta variant is believed to be up to 50% more contagious than other strains. Because of this, it was perhaps inevitable that the Delta variant would also become prevalent in Mexico’s travel and tourism hubs of Cancun and Los Cabos.
It’s believed that around 80% of cases in these important tourist areas are now caused by the Delta strain. And the third wave isn’t helped by the large numbers of residents who are still unvaccinated. Case numbers have increased by an average of 250% nationwide in the last month, and hospitals in some locations are beginning to strain under the pressure of COVID. Cancun hospital has cut some of its regular services to create additional capacity for COVID-infected patients.
Action To Prevent The Spread Of COVID
In a bid to reduce numbers and turn the tide on the third wave, official organizations in Cancun, such as the Ministry of Health and the Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risks (Cofepris) have increased monitoring of the pre-existing occupancy restrictions in hotels and other social spaces.
In addition, the Governor of Quintana Roo State, Carlos Joaquín González, announced that, from Monday 26 July, bars, nightclubs, hotels, and restaurants require visitors to show a vaccination certificate, or a negative PCR test, before they are allowed to enter.
People working in these places will also have to be either vaccinated or must produce a negative PCR or antigen test result every 3 days in order to meet regulations.
Hotels are also taking action to minimize the impact on Cancun’s visitors. In the Hard Rock Hotel, two floors have been reserved for people who test positive with COVID-19, in order to prevent the spread to other hotel guests or staff. And a number of hotels in the city have promised reduced room rates for those who have to quarantine because of the illness.
Understanding the importance of keeping places like Cancun open and generating tourist income, the federal government of Mexico has promised an increased supply of vaccinations for residents of Quintana Roo. Currently almost 65% of adults in Quintana Roo – and 50% in Cancun – have had at least one dose of the vaccine.
Despite the worries that an increased COVID infection rate in Cancun may bring, Roberto Cintrón, President of the Cancun, Puerto Morelos and Isla Mujeres Hotel Association, wants to remind tourists: “It is important to highlight that infections are occurring among local youth,” he said. “We have enough hospital beds for them, if necessary. But it is not happening among tourists.”
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