Mexico limits nonessential travel on the southern border

Mexico announced restrictions Thursday on nonessential travel across its southern border with Guatemala and Belize “to prevent the spread of Covid-19.”

The Foreign Relations Department didn't explain why the measure was announced now, more than a year after the start of the pandemic.

But the result could help the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden handle a wave of Central American migrants reaching the U.S. border and it came on an equivalent day the U.S. confirmed it'll send 2.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine to Mexico.

Officials from both countries skirted the question of whether the vaccines were being sent to Mexico in return for its decision to limit entry on its southern border, though they acknowledged the choice came within the context of current talks on vaccines and immigration.

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Roberto Velasco, director of North American affairs for Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department, wrote that “this may be a question of separate issues on a joint agenda. Migration and Covid-19 vaccines are distinct issues.”

White House press secretary Jenn Psaki said that “there are expectations set outside of — unrelated — to any vaccine doses or request for them that they might be partners in handling the crisis on the border.”

“And there are requests, unrelated, that they — for doses of those vaccines,” Paski said. “Every relationship has multiple layers of conversations that are happening at an equivalent time.”

Mexico's assistant health secretary, Hugo López-Gatell, said the country's decision was triggered by the increasing number of migrants entering Central America.

“There was a verifiable increase in local inflows, particularly from Central America,” López-Gatell said when asked about the timing of the restrictions.

Mexico and therefore us way back imposed similar restrictions on Mexico’s northern border. But Mexico had previously been unwilling to impose them on the southern border or most flights entering Mexico.

The restrictions coincide with an enormous uptick in the number of Central American migrants reaching the U.S border through Mexico. the amount of migrants attempting to cross the U.S. border has been growing since April, with the 100,441 reported last month the very best level since March 2019.

The Foreign Relations Department said tourism and recreational travel wouldn't be allowed across the southern border, but that the rule wouldn't affect those seeking to cross for business, education, or health care, and wouldn't apply to people entering or leaving the country on valid visas.

As such, the measure would bar migrants without visas from entering. The restrictions are to travel into effect Friday.

“Also, the Mexican government will implement health control measures within the north and south of the country,” consistent with the department's Twitter account. it had been not clear if those measures would come with monitoring, health checks, or testing points.

Mexico has registered over 195,000 Covid-19 deaths and almost 2.2 million infections, but the rise just in case numbers has been declining in recent weeks.

In us, the Department of Homeland Security announced Thursday it's extending the restrictions on nonessential travel at land borders through April 21, a move that has become routine since the measures were implemented in early 2020.

“Informed by science and public health guidance, we'll work with our counterparts to identify an approach to easing restrictions when conditions permit and with the protection of our citizens from Covid-19 at the forefront of our minds,” according to the DHS.

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