Christmas shoppers crowd downtown as Yucatan tries to revive its economy during the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: Facebook

Mérida, Yucatán — The pre-holiday Buen Fin discount promotion drove shoppers to the Centro. The long holiday weekend, which culminates with Día de la Revolución on Monday, attracted diners along Progreso’s malecón as early as 10 a.m. Tables and chairs were not particularly far apart.

Meanwhile, house parties were common around Merida on Friday night in both private homes and vacation rentals. One Airbnb property in Santa Ana had a van and driver idling outside for hours while guests socialized.

All this is great news for the economy unless, of course, the crowds cause a spike in coronavirus cases, and Yucatan loses ground before the epidemiological traffic light.

New infections have been reported an average of 65 a day for the last two weeks. That’s an improvement over daily new cases in the middle of October, when they often topped 100.

The public appears itching to escape the confines of home. La Jornada Maya reported a healthy increase in Christmas shopping, but also noted sloppy behavior. Social distancing was non-existent and face coverings were often found to be improperly used.

Long lines of people were observed waiting to enter department stores and smaller shops, as well as for ATMs and banks. Businesses were generally good about applying hygiene measures, taking temperatures and passing around hand gel. Disinfectant mats were commonly found at entrances.

Streets, closed in the morning to traffic, were opened and clogged with honking cars, the newspaper observed.

Street musicians took advantage of the influx to earn a few pesos. Don Orlando’s hat was full of coins and the occasional bill. “I have done well,” said the musician after singing “Me ha ido bien,” crossing himself with some change in his hand.

“These days have represented a respite for businesses that have been severely impacted by the health contingency,” said Jorge Cardeña Licona, the new president of the Small-Business Chamber of Commerce (Canacope). “Its sales have increased more than 30 percent and it is expected that this will continue until the end of the year.”

The expanded Buen Fin 2020, once a weekend Black Friday-type affair, began last Monday and will conclude Friday. More than 9,000 companies have participated and are expected to grow the state economy by more than 6 billion pesos.

All this activity is happening as Mexico has reached a grim milestone.

Generally resisting internationally accepted practices in pandemic management, Mexico on Saturday topped a million coronavirus cases and nearly 100,000 deaths, although the number is probably much higher.

Assistant Health Secretary Hugo López-Gatell said more testing would be “a waste of time, effort and money.” Face masks, López-Gatell says, “are an auxiliary measure to prevent spreading the virus. They do not protect us, but they are useful for protecting other people.”

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador almost never wears a mask, and López-Gatell only occasionally does.

With information from news agencies

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