SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 16 October 2021, Saturday |

Mexico cheers November opening of U.S. border, frets over WHO vaccines rules

Mexico’s president applauded the United States’ decision to open their shared border in November after more than 18 months of pandemic restrictions, despite the fact that millions of Mexicans who have been immunized with Chinese and Russian vaccinations will be turned away.

Since March 2020, the world’s busiest land border, which saw almost a million people cross every day before the coronavirus outbreak, has been restricted to non-essential travel.

In his daily morning press conference, Lopez Obrador remarked, “The opening of the northern border has been achieved; we will have normalcy in our northern border.”

The exact timing for the reopening was still being negotiated between the two governments.

With the US proposing to only allow visitors who have been inoculated with vaccines approved by the World Health Organization (WHO), President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has urged WHO to approve all other COVID-19 vaccines currently in use.

Businesses on both sides of the border were hit hard by the shutdown of the 1,954-mile (3,144-kilometer) border. According to a survey by the Baker Institute, the loss of Mexican consumers and visitors cost Texas border counties $4.9 billion in lost GDP in 2020.

More than 950,000 people entered the United States from Mexico on foot or in cars on a typical day, according to 2019 U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency data.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas earlier said U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico would reopen in November for fully vaccinated travelers. U.S. officials last week said international visitors will need to be inoculated with U.S. or WHO-authorized vaccines.

This poses a major problem for Mexico, which has inoculated millions of people with Russian and Chinese vaccines not yet authorized by WHO. Mexico’s government plans to push WHO to authorize other vaccines in public use, Lopez Obrador said.

“The WHO must act correctly, without political or ideological tendencies, sticking to the science,” he added.

Mexico has signed agreements for Russian Sputnik V vaccines to inoculate 12 million people and Chinese Cansino vaccines for another 35 million people, according to the foreign ministry. Neither is WHO-approved yet.

DIPLOMATIC PUSH

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said the border reopening will coincide with a push to reactivate economic activities in the frontier region, where Mexico has made a vast effort to bring vaccination rates in line with the United States.

He said high-level bilateral economic meetings taking place in November will focus on the border region. Other meetings will be held in coming days to work out details of the reopening.

Ebrard said Mexico had been strongly pushing Washington for the border to reopen, including laying out proposals during a visit by U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris.

The United States “have accepted many proposals that we made along the way to achieve this”, Ebrard said, without giving details.