Not all of us living abroad went home, most temporary expats returned home especially when studies or jobs ended due to the restrictions countries impose in order to prevent the virus from spreading. but there is a large group of expats that just wait until the storm blows over.
Those that stayed do not have a home anymore and live more like immigrants than expats.
They are the ones that build a new home around working abroad.
Those that returned are the winter birds, seeking sun over snow, and students and temporary workers. When jobs and studies end or even health insurance ends, it is better to be home before borders closed.
I have seen many neighbors pack their bags to return to Canada for example, when the government alarmed them about not having any right to healthcare if they would stay abroad.
I am one of those who sit out the storm and hope it blows over really fast. Mexico is still in that precious moment that the virus can be contained and prevent a widespread outbreak. But numbers are going up and the country’s atmosphere is changing rapidly.
Like so many others I try to make the best of it. I read stories of fellow expats around the world, some locked in their houses for weeks already, others wondering when the quarantine will happen to them and how to handle emergencies in families back home when you cannot travel.
How is life in Mexico during COVID-19
Well, I am fairly new in this country, I have only been here a year. And I must say I was surprised by how fast and professional things were rolled out once the government decided it was time. All seemed to be well thought through and organized and I really had a good feeling about it.
But after that, it became a bit dodgy and vague. Since Mexico is a country with 32 federal states, every state started to make its own rules on top of the national rules.
it took a while before I had an oversight of what channels to follow and which one to skip for staying updated about the situation and mostly the rules to fight the spreading of the Corona Virus in Mexico.
After the State information channels, I also have to watch the announcements of the local government in my case of Solidaridad, of which Playa del Carmen is part. So rules implied to f.e. Chetumal or Cancun, do not automatically apply for me, but sometimes they do. Man, I got so lost the first few days I nearly panicked.
And there are things happening that are not communicated, like all shopping malls suddenly are closed. It makes sense, but an announcement would have been nice. Lots of stuff you buy in a mall is not available anywhere else.
Life in the streets
Although the government places photos of how good Mexicans behave, they thrive on implying positive guild to people, like: look how good we behave, to make those that do not behave well feel guilty, despite that, the people do not care for social distancing, the food stalls are still open end those cooks handle money and food, no gel to rinse hands, nothing. Customers standing close together eating tacos.
They move in groups, hang out on the beach, and sit on the sidewalk together, they hug, cuddle and shake hands as if there is nothing wrong in the world and the daily radio is not blasting out about a deadly virus.
Another worrisome thing is that there seem to be people out rioting and looting. So police surveillance is up a notch at night, and we are just waiting for a curfew to be announced. The first step is a liquor ban for certain hours at night in public places.
Stores are not being plundered as much, although certain products are sold out or difficult to find. But overall the atmosphere in the streets is kind of depressed, many lost jobs for god knows how long, and people are looking for someone to blame.
Still, most streets are very quiet, especially in the tourist area, where there is hardly anybody left. Traffic is at an all low, and around schools, where there usually is this active buzz, it is all quiet and deserted.
What is allowed and what is not allowed during the Corona-virus outbreak in Mexico?
Well, we still have a lot of freedom here in this city. For other states, other rules are in order. Some states and islands are on lockdown and have a travel limitation, some cities and islands have a curfew.
In all of Mexico, people are urged to stay at home, also when they are not sick with anything. Initiatives to order food online and through Whatsapp are taken and stimulated by the local government.
There are guidelines for restaurants and people that eat there. We must disinfect our hands before entering, for example, all restaurants have to have a general bottle of gel for customers.
We have to keep a social distance, cough in our elbow and wash our hands, soap-water is provided in my city at central points like bus stations, so people can sanitize.
No sports, culture, or school activities that has moved to online programs.
In some cities, you are urged to return home when you go out of town.
Public places, like offices and service desks, shopping charts are sanitized, and so is public transport
All workers of 65+ and up are relieved of work and all citizens 65+ and up have to stay at home.
Pin transactions are promoted and preferred over cash.
All terminals, if still operated have scans and your temperature is taken. Travel is discouraged but still allowed in most parts.
And that is about it.
Do I feel safe living in Mexico during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Well…..safety is an emotion, a feeling, there are moments I feel completely safe, there are moments my feeling of safety is influenced by newspaper articles or what I sense in the streets. I cannot put the finger on it, but it is a hunch that gives you the creeps and then you know it is time to go home and distance yourself from the madness that is ruling our daily world at the moment.
Mexico is known for its violence and poverty. And people in distress make strange decisions and can move in unpredictable ways.
I see the government providing help for those in financial need, but will it be enough?
And will this society keep standing strong when the virus really hits?
Will crime rise and if so how fast?
Is the government able to keep things under control in the streets when the people get scared?
The peak is for now is expected somewhere around august. So this country has time to turn this thing around. I will be happy, so happy if they can, for all our sakes. But if they can’t, I am not sure how I will feel. That all depends on what happens. We will be entering phase 3 pretty soon. We will see.
For now, I take it one day at a time, for I have learned from past experiences being abroad during a disaster, that that is the best thing to do. I cannot control the future, mine nor this country. And I just have to be wise, be patient and sit out the storm.