Protesters blocked lanes on the Mexico side of the southern border on Wednesday, requesting Mexico institute more coronavirus screenings for southbound travelers to avoid further spread.
The protests, involving fewer than a dozen people and two vehicles blocking two southbound lanes at the DeConcini crossing, lasted hours Wednesday on the Mexican side of the border in Ambos Nogales, USA Today reported.
The demonstrators held up signs that requested U.S. residents “stay at home” and others demanding Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador increase restrictions and screenings on everyone entering Mexico. The protesters also requested a ban on tourism visits and those for minor medical procedures for U.S. citizens and Mexicans in the U.S.
Southbound traffic into Mexico is closed at the DeConcini Port of Entry. Please use Mariposa Port of Entry. NPD is conducting traffic control, please be patient as officers direct traffic.
— Nogales Police (@NogalesPoliceAz) March 25, 2020
The blockade led to backed-up traffic in the bordering Nogales, Ariz., prompting police to redirect cars headed to Mexico.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said the crossing had reopened at 5:30 p.m., but the city of Nogales cautioned that the protests may continue Thursday, according to a statement obtained by USA Today.
Jose Luis Hernandez, who was with the group Sonorans for Health and Life, said the protests were the Mexican president’s “first warning.”
“There are no health screenings by the federal government to deal with this pandemic,” he told USA Today. “That’s why we’re here in Nogales. We’ve taken this action to call on the Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to act now.”
The U.S. and Mexico agreed last week to allow travel only for “essential” reasons such as medical emergencies, school or work. Mexico, however, has faced international criticism for its relatively hands-off response to the coronavirus.
The U.S. has recorded the third highest confirmed cases of COVID-19 of any country in the world, much higher than Mexico. As of Thursday morning, the U.S. has recorded almost 69,200 confirmed cases with 869 deaths. In Mexico, 405 people have been diagnosed, with five deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.