July 16, 2020 / 10:27 PM / a month ago

Mexico tightens coronavirus curbs in tourist spots, other pockets

MONTERREY, July 16 (Reuters) - The spread of the coronavirus has spurred Mexican authorities to impose local restrictions on mobility, commerce, and leisure, particularly in popular tourist destinations, even as the government seeks to revive the battered economy.

On Wednesday, authorities in the Caribbean beach resort of Tulum threatened to fine or arrest people for disobeying rules on wearing face masks, the latest in a series of local and state-level curbs against the spread of the virus.

Eager to lift an economy that is forecast to shrink as much as 10% this year, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has encouraged people to get out, and has resisted reimposing more stringent nationwide restrictions.

But some local authorities worry if they do not take precautions, the hit to their livelihoods will be worse.

“We can’t play with the health of the citizens,” Tulum’s mayor, Victor Mas Tah, said in comments reported by local media.

Tulum’s steps were part of measures aimed at containing the coronavirus in the state of Quintana Roo, whose governor, Carlos Joaquin, said on Thursday he had tested positive for COVID-19.

Home to the popular tourist resort of Cancun, Quintana Roo has one of Mexico’s highest rates of active cases per capita, according to Mexican health ministry data.

Mexico, which now has the fourth-highest death toll globally from the coronavirus, has reported 36,906 fatalities and 317,635 infections. Daily infection tallies were still hitting record highs last week.

Yucatan state, another popular tourist destination, has imposed an overnight curfew, shortened operating hours for nonessential businesses, banned alcohol sale and closed marinas.

Restrictions have also reached areas less renowned for tourism, such as in the eastern state of Veracruz. This week authorities there issued curbs on travel and group gatherings in dozens of municipalities.

Before the pandemic, tourism accounted for almost 9% of Mexican gross domestic product. (Reporting by Laura Gottesdiener in Monterrey, Mexico Editing by Dave Graham and Matthew Lewis)

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