With the number of coronavirus deaths in Mexico exceeding 5,300 and 51,513 known cases, authorities are struggling to restart key industries without triggering further spread of the highly contagious respiratory virus.
The move to loosen the restrictions follows growing pressure from the United States to reopen factories that are vital to the supply chains of US-based businesses, particularly in the large automotive sector.
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Mexico’s plans to reopen have drawn criticism from some concerned politicians that the ever-increasing pandemic tide in Latin America does not make it dangerous to send more people to work.
Mexico’s guidelines, published overnight, require companies to submit health protocols to authorities to break the coronavirus lockout. Companies will then be informed within 72 hours if they can resume their activities.
General Motors Co, which operates one of its largest plants in central Mexico’s city of Silao, asked workers to prepare to return to work on Wednesday. GM has also told Mexican suppliers that the company expects to comply quickly with the new regulations.
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Activists made up of former GM workers on Monday called for an independent workers-elected committee to inspect the company’s factories for proper sanitation.
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“We think these are measures they are not really going to take seriously,” said Israel Cervantes, who said he was unjustly dismissed last year after trying to form an independent union.
In a video sent to Silao employees, GM said workers would be spaced out, screened for COVID-19 symptoms when they enter each day and be given masks and glasses to wear at all times.
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In response to questions from Reuters, GM said its protocols are in line with or more stringent than guidelines from the World Health Organization and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and that Mexican authorities will be responsible for monitor companies.
The auto industry in the US slowly revived on Monday, with the reopening of some vehicle assembly plants after the coronavirus lockout, while suppliers have prepared to support an industry that accounts for about 6% of l economic activity.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said companies should answer a detailed questionnaire as part of worker protection efforts.
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“Today, they can start filling out the paperwork so that companies in the construction, transportation and mining sectors can start operating, starting with their health protocols,” said Lopez Obrador at his conference. of daily press.
The government has said the directives will result in a gradual reopening that follows a so-called traffic light system put in place by the authorities.
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Some 300 municipalities without cases of coronavirus and other borderline without cases – called “municipalities of hope” – were also due to lift the lock on Monday, although Mexican media have reported that some states do not allow relaxation.
Mexico reported a record number of deaths on a single day last Tuesday, with 353 deaths. This gloomy news was reported by 2,437 new coronavirus infections on Friday, a record day-over-day increase in the number of cases since the start of the pandemic.
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A Reforma poll showed on Monday that 67% of Mexicans thought the worst of the pandemic was yet to come, while only 20% thought the worst was over. The survey interviewed 400 adults from last Tuesday to Thursday.
(Reporting by Sharay Angulo, Raul Cortes Fernandez and Daina Beth Solomon; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Tom Brown, Cynthia Osterman and Peter Cooney)
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