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Tracking the Re-Emergence of Travel to Mexico

Feb 14, 2021

Americans have traveled to Mexico throughout the pandemic.

As the pandemic continues, many are finding life in lockdown to be wearing on their mental health. Because of this, Mexico has quickly become a hot spot for Americans wanting a respite from the pandemic. Comparatively laid-back entry requirements and its proximity to the U.S. have led American tourists to flock to places like Los Cabos, Tulum, Cancun, and Puerto Vallarta. 

The U.S. Embassy in Mexico has banned nonessential land travel across the border until February 21. However, they also specified air travel has not been greatly affected by these limits. In fact, an October report from Airlines for America found that Mexico was a “clear leader” in international travel and the vast majority of those travelers were U.S. citizens.

However, the Centers for Disease Control Prevention have assigned Mexico a Level 4 “very high” COVID-19 designation that said, “travelers should avoid all travel” to the country.  Mexico is not alone in this distinction, dozens of other countries worldwide also have “do not travel distinctions,” including Canada, Brazil, and the United Kingdom. Unlike countries like the U.K, Mexico has not restricted its borders and is not instituting a mandatory quarantine for those entering the country. Airlines have also not put any restrictions in place on travel into Mexico.

The Mexican government, on the other hand, never closed its borders despite the pandemic. It is one of the only countries in the world that is still welcoming international travelers without restriction. Mexico’s states have each had different phased re-openings depending on the number of cases and hospitalizations.

Mexico began vaccinating its healthcare workers and at-risk populations in December 2020. According to Reuters, Mexico is set to purchase 12 million doses of the Russian-developed COVID-19 vaccine, Sputnik V. Alongside vaccines from Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and the Chinese CanSino Biologies Inc, Mexico is aiming to have vaccinated 3.7 million people by the end of March.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has also said he is not opposed to private firms buying and distributing vaccine doses to those who wish to pay for them. However, he warned companies not to buy doses already promised to the Mexican government.

“We are not opposed to commercializing the vaccine, to companies importing it and selling it to those who can pay,” López Obrador said to PBS. “The catch is the supply of vaccines in the world markets because there still isn’t enough production.

While both the American and Mexican governments advise against traveling unless, for essential business, it seems that both populations remain undeterred. Air travel has been allowed, and 80% of tourists in Los Cabos are American. Since its reopening, Los Cabos has also recovered 80% of its travel activity. In November, more than half a million Americans visited Mexico, according to the New York Times.

In Mexican airports, travelers will have their temperature taken at least once to ensure they are not symptomatic. The states of Guanajuato and Yucatan are also offering COVID-19 rapid testing in airports and certain hotels. In Mexican airports, both domestic and international, one is apt to find far more thermal temperature screenings and health checks than they would in a similar U.S. airport. A visit to Mexico does not imply escaping the pandemic, but rather an adventure to a country that we have often taken for granted as being so close to the states. In fact, many of the sanitation and social distancing practices are adhered to better by the Mexican population than that of the U.S. population.

The CDC also recommends getting tested 1-3 days before any air travel and asks travelers to keep a copy of their negative test results with them in case they are asked for them. This is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. The emergence of easily accessible PCR Rapid Tests has made for a much easier homecoming and allows travelers to feel confident and healthy upon returning to family. 

Please be sure to check the CDC’s latest guidance for traveling, including wearing a face mask in public settings.

Mexico is not alone in its designation by the CDC or the recommendations they give to people who are planning on traveling. Most countries in the world are also considered level 4. Americans have been traveling to Mexican states since they began reopening in June, and have done their best to welcome tourists as safely as possible. As both the U.S. and Mexico continue to vaccinate their respective populations, Mexico is expected to be among the first countries fully reopened to tourism.

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