Mexico City grows quieter as mayor moves to stem coronavirus spread


MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – The streets in the heart of Mexico City usually clogged with bikers most Sundays grew noticeably quiet after the mayor ordered a popular outdoors event suspended along with other measures, even as the president has so far avoided such action.

Few vehicles are seen on the street as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak continues, in Mexico City, Mexico March 22, 2020. REUTERS/Gustavo Graf

The Mexican capital’s Sunday bike circuit usually draws some 50,000 participants, mostly bikers as well as runners and skaters, but only a tiny fraction showed up on Sunday after Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum ordered it closed due to the risk of spreading coronavirus.

Later on Sunday, she ordered from Monday the closure of the city’s many museums, nightclubs and gyms while also issuing a ban on events where 50 or more people might congregate.

“We don’t know how bad this virus really is so I guess it’s a responsible thing to do,” said Mauricio Ortega, 73, who was nevertheless still riding his bike, but wearing a mask and gloves.

Last week, Sheinbaum recommended that employees in the capital work from home if possible, while the federal government ordered schools temporarily closed and pushed social distancing policies, even as critics argued that more sweeping measures are needed.

The city government-run car-free bike circuit usually passes the capital’s sprawling Bosque de Chapultepec park, tall skyscrapers and iconic landmarks such as the Angel of Independence monument and Zocalo plaza.

Sheinbaum wrote on her Twitter page that the circuit, usually staffed with safety personal at intersections, was suspended to prevent the spread of coronavirus and promote “a safe distance” between people.

Streets and offices across Mexico were increasingly empty as bosses and local leaders urge people to reduce social interaction, as many containment measures have been pushed by local leaders, businesses and ordinary people, not President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

Mexico City’s famed Garibaldi Plaza, the unofficial capital of traditional mariachi music, was filled with swarms of idled musicians desperate for customers on Saturday night. At nearby La Tenampa restaurant, just a few tables inside the usually bustling multi-story eatery were occupied.

Nearly all the bars and restaurants in the city’s trendy Roma Norte neighborhood were also barely open or closed entirely on Saturday evening.

Unlike some of his more aggressive peers across the region, Lopez Obrador has stopped short of ordering a broad lockdown due to concerns that the country’s already slumping economy would take an even bigger hit.

To date, Mexico has reported around 250 cases of coronavirus and two deaths.

Additional reporting by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by David Alire Garcia and Diane Craft

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