Mexico’s Health Ministry is on high alert after a man infected with the deadly Coronavirus visited Mexico City in late January.
“A Chinese man who tested positive for coronavirus fell sick on a family vacation to Mexico before he flew back to Los Angeles, according to a report,” The New York Post said.
Mexican newspaper Milenio first reported that the unnamed 38-year-old man traveled to Mexico City on Jan. 20, taking a Delta Airlines flight.
He reportedly took an Uber to the Hotel Hilton Mexico City Reforma, where he and his family spent one day. They mingled in the hotel’s breakfast area, walked around the city for a day, and then returned home that evening when the man fell ill, again using Uber as a method of transport to the airport, and this time flying American Airlines.
“An epidemiological investigation is being carried out with the objective of identifying potential contacts that could have been spread,” Mexico’s Health Ministry said at the time.
American Airlines confirmed that the man had flown with them, but did not say what steps they were taking to ensure safety of other passengers with whom he might have contacted.
Uber, on the other hand, is taking no risks. It confirmed on Feb. 3, more than a week after the man used the service, that it had suspended the accounts of the two drivers with whom the man rode, as well as the accounts of 240 passengers who may have ridden in the same vehicles. Those suspensions will last for two weeks, the incubation period for the virus.
Since the infected man visited the country, Mexican health officials say that they are unaware of any new cases of Coronavirus.
But the Mexican Health Ministry says the appearance of the virus is “imminent.” More than 13,000 people travel from China to Mexico each month.
“That’s why we say it is imminent, because of the type of transmission and because of the globalization in which we live,” Dr. José Luis Alomía Zegarra, the Mexican Health Ministry spokesman, told the Los Angeles Times.
“Sooner or later we can expect an initial confirmed case … as has begun to happen in other countries in the world,” he said.
The illness itself is still largely shrouded in mystery. Health officials do not know what caused the breakout, how exactly the disease is spread, and have not produced a cure or vaccination.
The number of confirmed cases is difficult to know for sure, given the secrecy of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The official death toll is 908, with more than 40,000 confirmed cases. It has produced the largest mass quarantine in human history, with more than 40 million Chinese citizens ordered to stay in their homes for an unspecified period of time.
But pre-planned travel is not the only concern.
With the potential for the Coronavirus to turn into a global pandemic, and America’s southern border wide open to thousands of migrants who cross monthly, some of whom are Chinese, American advocates for closed borders are concerned.
At the end of January, when Mexico was monitoring another man for symptoms of the illness, former Kansas Secretary of State and current U.S. Senate candidate Kris Kobach spoke exclusively with The Rundown News.
“This is a perfect example of why we need a border wall along the entirety of the southern border — because the southern border has become a staging point for people from Asia, Africa, and South America to enter the United States,” he said at the time. “The only thing that serves as a deterrent is a border wall combined with the multiplying effect of Border Patrol. The more wall that is built, the more Border Patrol can monitor.”
Normally, those traveling to the United States enter via a known port of entry, where screenings for such diseases can occur.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued directions for inbound flights from China, all of which will fly to one of 11 airports that are equipped to monitor travelers for symptoms of the virus.
But such protocols cannot be implemented where there are no ports of entry.
“Ports of entry are normally where incoming migrants would be screened, including for possibly contagious diseases, but we don’t have that in wide open spaces of border territory,” Kobach told The Rundown News.
If there is a serious breakout of Coronavirus in Mexico, it could quickly and stealthily make its way into the United States, adding to the list of concerns caused by open borders.
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