Americans have been escaping to Mexico to avoid COVID-19 restrictions back home. Now Mexico is seeing a surge in coronavirus cases.

A beach in Cancun, Mexico, on Tuesday. Alberto Valdez / Eyepix Group/Barcroft Media via Getty

mexico tourists
A beach in Cancun, Mexico, on Tuesday. Alberto Valdez / Eyepix Group/Barcroft Media via Getty Images (edited)
  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans have flocked to Mexico to vacation or to settle, according to multiple reports.

  • In November, more than half a million Americans traveled to Mexico, The New York Times reported.

  • The influx of Americans has been partly due to relaxed restrictions at the Mexican border: While many countries require proof of a negative coronavirus test or a quarantine upon arrival, Mexico does not ask for either.

  • But the influx has contributed to a surge in COVID-19 cases in the country. Mexico has recently reported new highs in daily cases.

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To avoid COVID-19 restrictions back home, many Americans have traveled to Mexico to vacation or, in some instances, to settle down.

“A lot of people are either coming down here and visiting to test it out, or have just full-on relocated,” a former New Yorker who has lived in Mexico City for two years told The New York Times.

According to The Times, the number of US visitors entering Mexico doubled from June to August, and more than half a million Americans traveled to Mexico in November.

While the American arrivals have been a boon for the Mexican tourism industry, there have been consequences.

There has been a surge in coronavirus across the country, with authorities recording new peaks in November and December.

mexico coronavirus daily cases
Daily new coronavirus cases in Mexico as of Sunday. Worldometer

According to Worldometer, Mexico recorded more than 12,500 new coronavirus cases on December 23 – the most since the beginning of the pandemic – and the daily figures have since hovered around there.

On Thursday, Mexico reported 1,052 COVID-19 deaths. The country’s highest daily death toll – 1,128 deaths – was recorded on June 4.

As of Sunday, Mexico has recorded more than 1.4 million COVID-19 cases and more than 126,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The country has the fourth-highest COVID-19 death toll in the world.

The surge in cases has been partly attributed to Americans entering the country, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times reported in December. The US has recorded the highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the world.

In response to the rising number of cases in Mexico, the US State Department urged Americans to “reconsider travel to Mexico” because of high COVID-19 infection rates.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also advised people to “avoid all travel to Mexico” because of a “very high level of COVID-19.”

Why Americans are flocking to Mexico

Beachside municipalities, such as Los Cabos, have seen a particularly large influx of Americans. The Post reported in late December that the Riviera Maya, a region with numerous all-inclusive resorts, had welcomed more American tourists than ever before.

Quintana Roo, where Tulum and Cancun are, had a 23% increase in American visitors compared with 2019, The Post reported, adding that about 100 flights from the US were landing in the region every day.

The influx of Americans can be attributed in part to relatively relaxed entry requirements. While many countries require tourists to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test or to quarantine upon arrival, Mexico does not ask for either.

Dr. Enrique Hernandez, a trauma specialist in Los Cabos, recently told NPR that “it’s frustrating seeing tourists and locals alike being irresponsible and not wearing masks now.”

Similarly, Xavier Tello, a health-policy analyst in Mexico City, told The New York Times: “What we’re creating is a vicious cycle, where we’re receiving more people, who are potentially infectious or infected from elsewhere, and they keep mixing with people that are potentially infectious or infected here in Mexico City.”

But Juan Castro, from Carpinteria, California, told the Los Angeles Times that staying in Mexico appealed to him because the country seemed to have stricter coronavirus protocols than the US.

Across much of Mexico, hotels, restaurants, and shops require temperature checks, and many have limited capacities, the tourism magazine TravelAge West reported in October.

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