JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) – Juarez will go into a virtual overnight lockdown during the next 15 days, as health officials try to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The entire state of Chihuahua has gone into a “red” coronavirus threat level that carries restrictions to business occupancy, hours of operation and work hours. The state has designated Juarez as an “emergency zone” due to its large number of coronavirus cases and fatalities. On Thursday alone, Juarez reported 23 COVID-19 deaths and 447 new infections.

Chihuahua Gov. Javier Corral announces new COVID-19 related public and business restrictions. (Courtesy: State of Chihuahua)

Motorists in Juarez cannot be out on the street between 10 p.m. or 6 a.m. unless they’re going to buy groceries, medications, or visiting the doctor. No more than two adults can ride a car during the day. Alcohol sales are banned on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and permitted only through 6 p.m. Monday through Wednesday.

Factories also will have to reduce their hours of operation, Chihuahua Gov. Javier Corral said.

“We need to close ranks to keep this pandemic from overwhelming our resources,” Corral said late Thursday. “Our resources are dwindling amid this pandemic. We don’t have all the medications we need. Our medical personnel is very tired, they’ve been under tremendous stress for months.”

Corral said police officers throughout the state have been instructed to break up house parties — which he says are still common and one of the principal venues for the spread of the virus – and fine the organizers. Police will also be looking for places where clandestine alcohol sales are taking place.

Public transportation buses will also be under scrutiny, as many operators have failed to enforce occupancy limits, he said. The buses must operate under 50% capacity or face impoundment or loss of license.

The governor said all businesses would have to impose limitations – which will be outlined on Friday – but may continue to operate to not crash the economy. In fact, he said factories would eventually get a green light to slowly expand operations again.

“Manufacturing is a sector of our economy that has complied with restrictions and sanitary protocols,” he said. “These are measures to limit exposure in places that are not complying […] We will work with manufacturers in improving the safe transportation of their workers, the contract tracing to the tests they administer and to avoid large congregations at shift change. Those are the areas they need to improve.”

Corral chided those who have refused to wear masks or gather with others. He blamed the coronavirus surge on them and restated he’s given mayors the power to impose fines and other sanctions, like arrest.

Juarez Mayor Armando Cabada, who has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for the past two days, said he has instructed his police officers to hand out free face masks and COVID-19 prevention fliers to people who are out of compliance. He said he pondered fining them but decided now is not the time for punitive measures against ordinary citizens.

He said he’s sent a letter to Mexico City asking the federal government to deny entry to Americans who are coming for non-essential reasons. “We have to be reciprocal,” he said, referring to the current border travel restrictions the U.S. is enforcing on foreign nationals.

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