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Report from Mexico City in COVID-19 times

From a distance we followed in Mexico how the coronavirus first spread in Asia and later in Europe. It was a matter of time before the crisis hit the American continent. This time could have been used to learn from the mistakes of other countries or at least to set up a strategy. Instead, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador declared on 4 March that we should continue to hug and that nothing would happen. On the same day in Italy, the decision was taken to close schools and universities nationwide.



The privilege of social distancing

The president was well aware that for a large part of the population home office is not possible. According to the government, approximately one quarter of Mexican workers live from the informal sector. They have no employment contracts, no unemployment benefits and no daily sickness benefit. They live on the daily income from, for example, food stalls. Even for the people who have an employment contract, the salary is in most cases not enough to save money, not to mention to get a good health insurance. Although Mexico's population is relatively young, with an average age of 29 years, it also has one of the highest rates of diabetes and obesity in the world. Millions of people here have a weakened immune system or other serious health problems. At the same time, medical care is completely inadequate for the majority of the population.


Totally insufficient capacity of hospitals

Although Mexico's population is relatively young, with an average age of 29 years, it also has one of the highest rates of diabetes and obesity in the world. Millions of people here have a weakened immune system or other serious health problems. At the same time, medical care is completely inadequate for the majority of the population. The internationally criticized, delayed and irresponsible reaction of the president will cost this country a lot. Many are facing nothing. The only hope is the Minister of Health, Hugo Lopez-Gatell, who is now finally being taken seriously by the President.


Voluntary home-office of the architects

Most Mexican architects have for a long time resigned themselves to not trusting their government and thinking ahead. Many architectural offices in Mexico City switched over to home-office three weeks ago. The «peer pressure» in the architecture scene certainly contributed to the fact that many acted in this way. Today anyone who receives a salary in any way is grateful. After the Mexican government finally declared a state of health emergency last week, it also ordered the suspension of all non-essential activities.


Construction stop with fatal consequences

In Mexico City this also applies to work on private sector construction sites. Last year, the private construction industry accounted for 60.6% of the total construction value in Mexico City. Without any compensation for planners or construction workers, construction sites were closed down, with fatal consequences for countless people. Many private builders decided last week to stop their projects due to the uncertain situation. As a consequence, especially the architects, who work very locally, were forced to reduce their employees' salaries by 30 to 50% or to lay off part of their team from one day to the next. We can only hope that the Mexican architects, who are experts in creative resilience, will find ways out.



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This text was published on werk, bauen + wohnen

© LEARNING FROM MEXICO 2019 by Laure Nashed

 Die Beiträge von «learningfrommexico» entstehen in Zusammenarbeit mit der Schweizer Architekturzeitschrift werk, bauen + wohnen.

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