Is It Safe for U.S. Citizens to Travel to Mexico During Springbreak?

Mexico is one of the most popular destinations for Spring Break amongst U.S. citizens – for college students, working professionals, and retirees alike. However, amidst the worldwide outbreak of the novel coronavirus and advisories against travel by major government agencies, it might be worthwhile to balance all sides of the equation in deciding if traveling to Mexico in the upcoming months is a safe endeavor.


What is the Mexican government doing to contain the virus?


While the president of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, claims to be following evidence-based protocols for the containment of the virus, some argue that the country is ill-prepared to meet the demands of an outbreak.


According to infectious disease specialist Francisco Moreno Sanchez, Mexico is not doing nearly enough to contain the virus. Sanchez states that the country has only three medical centers that have the certification to test for COVID-19. As such, should an outbreak occur, the country will not be prepared to confirm cases and treat infected individuals, and may even be grossly underreporting the number of actual cases.


The Mexican Ministry of Health is keeping live updates on the number of cases and has created a hotline for those wishing to report symptoms and to request medical attention.


How many cases of coronavirus have been reported in Mexico?


As of March 11, 2020, there have been 12 confirmed cases of COVID-10, with seven in Mexico City, and individual cases reported in Coahuila, Chiapas, Puebla, Queretaro, and Nuevo Leon. No cases have been reported in popular tourist hubs, such as Cancun, Acapulco, Cabo San Lucas, and Tulum. It is worth noting that all infected individuals have traveled to high-risk international areas and are recovering from the virus; as such, there are no reported deaths due to the virus.


However, despite the low number of reported cases, Mexico may not be considered a low-risk nation. While hundreds of cases have been confirmed in neighboring Latin American countries, the risk of an uncontained outbreak is much higher in Mexico, which shares a border with the U.S. As of March 12, 2020, over 1,300 cases have been confirmed in the U.S. Not only does Mexico have the highest rate of U.S.-based tourism of any Latin American country, but the highest rates of cross-border travel for work-related matters.

Furthermore, due to the limited number of testing centers in Mexico, it is possible that the number of reported cases is simply that – reported cases. The actual number of infected individuals may be higher, and without the proper protocols for detecting the virus and placing infected individuals under quarantine, the virus may be spreading rapidly, posing a threat to locals and tourists alike.


Are there any travel restrictions placed on Mexico?


In related news, President Trump instituted a 30-day travel ban to 26 European countries that are part of the Schengen Area free movement zone and blocked entry for those with recent travel to China or Iran. There are currently talks of limiting domestic travel. However, there are currently no restrictions in place on land, air, or water-based travel between the U.S. and Mexico.


How has the coronavirus affected the tourism industry?


Approximately 45 million international tourists visit Mexico every year, with tourism being one of the nation’s most important industries. Although there are no reported statistics for the number of tourists who had canceled their travels to Mexico, major airlines have not canceled flights between the U.S. and Mexico since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.


Despite the normal operations of airline companies, the Mexican peso fell in value relative to the U.S. dollar by over 5 percent. As such, for U.S. tourists, the dollar has much higher buying power than in past years and is expected to increase in value in the coming months.


Amidst fears of limited travel, airline companies, hotels, and cruise lines are offering major discounts to travels, oftentimes upwards of 50 percent.


Will I be allowed to enter the U.S. if the outbreak in Mexico worsens?


The Trump Administration has not released an official statement outlining the protocol for blocking U.S. citizens from entering the country in the case that the virus outbreak intensifies in Mexico. Following the protocol for travelers from high-risk countries, such as China, Iran, and Italy, it is highly possible that U.S. citizens will be directed to major airports where they will undergo the proper screening before being allowed to enter the country.


It is worth keeping in mind that the travel bans to the 20+ nations were announced without any prior notice. Given the Trump Administration’s relations with the Mexican Government, more arbitrary and austere measures can be reasonably expected. Mexican nationals and immigrants might be at particular risk of experiencing complications related to potential travel bans. As such, if you are traveling to Mexico in the coming months, for any period of time, it might be helpful to have an attorney who specializes in cross-border litigation to assist you with any complications which might arise.


Jason Flores-Williams is a U.S.-based attorney with offices in Mexico City who specializes in litigation on both sides of the border and can advise you on any potential travel and immigration issues that might arise during your travels to Mexico.