30 Mar 2020
The governor of Baja California announced Monday that police and military forces will be used to restrict the movement of residents on public roads “except in cases where it is really necessary” in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the state rose to 31 on Monday with 11 cases in Tijuana and 20 cases in Mexicali.
In a video posted to social media, Baja California Governor Jaime Bonilla said people “wandering the streets” would now be banned.
“As of tomorrow, it will be forbidden to walk in the streets for no reason. Don’t be surprised if the police or the national guard or the army, SEDENA, come to you and ask you what you’re doing if you don’t really have a goal, ”Bonilla said. “What we’re trying to do is get this (situation) under control and of course the enforcement measures we’re going to implement are going to be more rigid as this graph (of confirmed coronavirus cases) goes up.”
It was not immediately clear what types of activities are considered permissible or what would happen if a person were caught “wandering the streets”.
Grocery stores, pharmacies and hospitals will remain open for people who need to buy food or seek treatment, Bonilla said.
“Don’t leave your house. Stay in your house. Protect your family and protect the community, ”said Baja California Health Secretary Alonso Pérez Rico, appearing in the same video ad as Bonilla. “Suspension from school is not a vacation. Now is not the time to go to the beach, party or celebrate birthdays. This is not the moment. ”
The news follows announcements by the Mexican federal government over the weekend urging the country’s 130 million people to stay home for a month.
While the number of confirmed cases in Mexico and Baja California remains low compared to those in the United States and California, infectious disease experts say testing is limited in Mexico. Health officials in Baja California, a state of 3.3 million people, said 226 people had been tested as of Thursday.
This past weekend, some beaches in Baja California appeared full of people with cars filling beach parking lots, many with California license plates. San Diego beaches were closed on March 23.
Mexican and US officials have urged residents of both countries to cross the border only for “essential purposes,” such as going to work in essential jobs and attending medical appointments.
“It’s very important what I’m going to say,” the governor warned, pointing to a graph showing the number of confirmed cases per day since the first coronavirus case was confirmed in Baja California. “The beaches are closed because this line cannot continue to climb.”
He said many families, women and children would be affected if the state did not take serious steps to prevent people from congregating in places like beaches and shopping malls.
“It’s not an easy thing to do,” Bonilla said. “We know the economy is going to be affected. Obviously we do. But the priority is health … There will always be an opportunity to recoup losses if you are alive.
Bonilla said that if the number of cases reached a certain point like in California, where the governor estimated that half the state could get sick, Baja California would not have enough hospitals, beds, doctors and nurses to treat all patients.
There have been more than 500 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in San Diego County and 6,895 confirmed cases in California. In California, 146 people had died of the disease as of Monday.
Experts say the actual number of cases is likely much higher than the official tally of positive tests.
Tijuana Mayor Arturo González announced on Sunday that all restaurants in Tijuana would close, except for take-out or home delivery.
After the Mexican federal government told people to stay indoors for 30 days, residents of Tijuana rushed to Costco and supermarkets on Sunday to stock up.
Maria Alvarez, wearing a face mask and plastic gloves, said she stood in line outside Costco for two hours on Sunday morning.
“If they allow me, I’ll buy a sufficient amount of food (for a month),” Alvarez said, saying she planned to stay indoors. “I understand it’s very difficult, but it’s worth it.”
During his daily briefing regarding the response to COVID-19, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer on Monday welcomed the Governor of Baja California’s decision to close beaches, bars and more, but he did not mention the new restriction against people “wandering the streets”.
“We in San Diego all know how very difficult it is,” Faulconer said. “But it is the right decision and it will save lives.”
Editor-in-chief Teri Figueroa contributed to this report.