Sargassum, hurricanes, COVID-19: the most difficult summer for Quintana Roo

Cancun beaches on June 25, 2020 (Photo: Elizabeth Ruiz / AFP)

When the Ministry of Tourism of Quintana Roo announced in March that they would not receive travelers at Easter, the news was in shock.

In one of the holiday periods of maximum influx and hotel occupancy, the most international destination in Mexican Caribbean it would be armored to prevent further spread of COVID-19. Cancun, Tulum, Morelos, Holbox, Isla Mujeres, Bacalar, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel … All its enclaves would close without exceptions, to avoid the fatal destination that tourist powers from countries such as the US, Spain or Italy had already suffered.

At that time, August was still a long way off. When thinking about summer, everything seemed to indicate that the pandemic would have subsided for the summer season. However, about to enter July, the situation in Quintana Roo seems to have worsened. Not only is the incidence of coronavirus of concern, but new factors and phenomena have emerged that further darken the picture.

Hurricane season, the arrival of sargassum, travel restrictions, and uncertainty when booking, have joined the increase in coronavirus cases in the country and doubts about the changes in the epidemiological alert traffic lights, ending the fear of potential travelers.

The traffic light of uncertainty

A waiter works at a Cancun hotel on June 10 (Photo: REUTERS / Jorge Delgado)
A waiter works at a Cancun hotel on June 10 (Photo: REUTERS / Jorge Delgado)

In order to promote its economic activity, Quintana Roo preceded federal designs in early June, and launched its own Epidemiological Risk Traffic Light, statewide.

Although much of the entity remained red, Orange municipalities were awarded the northern light. On June 8, Benito Juárez -where Cancún is located-, Tulum, Solidaridad, Cozumel, Puerto Morelos, Lázaro Cárdenas and Isla Mujeres achieved amber, and reactivated an important part of their tourist activity.

Transport companies, restaurants, museums and historical sites, dive operators, water and theme parks, spas, resorts and hotel accommodation have reopened to receive 30% of their total capacity. However, its greatest appeal is still closed to the public. And is that the turquoise water beaches of Quintana Roo remain closed.

The following activities are banned, prohibited, at zero percent: beaches and public parks, artistic, cultural and sports services; gyms and sports clubs; bars, discos, nightclubs and casinos; social activities and conventions, ”explained the state governor, Carlos Joaquín González, on June 7.

On June 22, the head of the state executive announced that the orange light is also for the southern towns.

“The entire State is in orange at the State Traffic Light. We are NOT out of the woods. It is VITAL to follow the sanitary measures and only go out to the permitted activities ”, he wrote on Twitter, highlighting that the beaches were still closed to the public.

Two weeks later, the picture continues the same, but mistrust is greater. It is no longer unknown what date the beaches will open, but also there is a fear of going back to a red light again. In municipalities such as Benito Juárez, where Cancún is located, health protocols have been launched to prevent further spread of COVID-19. And it is that it concentrates 70% of the total contagions of the entity and 76% of the deaths.

Despite efforts to revive the sector, hotel occupancy is expected to not exceed 30% in Quintana Roo this summer, according to estimates by Tourism Secretary Miguel Torruco. And the uncertainty that falls on July does not help to improve the situation.


Photograph of boats thrown onto a beach by the strong winds of tropical storm Cristóbal, in Puerto Morelos, Quintana Roo (Photo: EFE / Alonso Cupul)

Photograph of boats thrown onto a beach by the strong winds of tropical storm Cristóbal, in Puerto Morelos, Quintana Roo (Photo: EFE / Alonso Cupul)

If the COVID-19 hit wasn’t enough, the Tropical Cyclone Season in 2020 will be “more active than normal” in the North Atlantic, according to the forecast of the National Water Commission (Conagua).

“The forecast for the Atlantic basin is from 15 to 19 hydrometeorological phenomena“The agency reiterated on June 14.

Of the total events, about eight or ten would be tropical storms, and nine others could become hurricanes: Among them, four would gain strength and climb the Saffir-Simpson scale to the highest categories, that is, 3, 4 and 5.

While tropical storms Arthur and Bertha were ahead of the schedule and headed for the east coast of the US, the third event of the season, Cristobal, It hit southeast Mexico and caused severe flooding and numerous material losses. And Playa del Carmen, in Quintana Roo, was one of the most affected areas.

Dolly became the fourth phenomenon to be recorded in the Atlantic this 2020, and advanced without causing serious damage. This means that they could still occur before November 30 – the day on which the Atlantic hurricane season ends -, 15 tropical cyclones, which will carry the following names: Dolly, Edouard, Fay, Gonzalo, Hanna, Isaias, Josephine, Kyle, Laura, Marco, Nana, Omar, Paulette, Rene, Sally and Teddy.


(Photo: Facebook Sargasso Citizen Observatory)
(Photo: Facebook Sargasso Citizen Observatory)

Hurricanes are not the only problem that carries the Atlantic with them and threaten Quintana Roo. Like every year, sargassum has made its appearance off the coast of the entity. In places like Playa del Carmen, the banks are already infected with this brown, foul-smelling macroalga. And it seems that this is only the beginning.

The Secretary of the Navy of Mexico (Semar) warned that during the next three months they will arrive massive accumulations of sargassum off the Quintana Roo coast. According to the forecasts based on its monitoring, the most affected beaches would be those of Solidaridad -where Playa del Carmen is-, Cozumel, Tulum and Othón P. Blanco.

Although 195 million 634 thousand pesos have been invested to combat sargassum, and Semar’s actions are effective, it continues to land on the coasts in an irrepressible manner.

The image abroad

(Photo: Facebook Sargasso Citizen Observatory)
(Photo: Facebook Sargasso Citizen Observatory)

Despite the low number of tests that have been carried out in Mexico, the number of infections continues to climb, and with a total of 231,770 cases, the Republic already occupies the 11th position in the world ranking, without the epidemiological curve showing a clear downward trend.

These figures affect the image of the country abroad. If the US ambassador to the Republic, Christopher Landau, recommended a few weeks ago to his compatriots not to do tourism in Mexico, this week the European Union launched a travel restriction and included Aztec land among the places considered “not safe”.

The incidence of COVID-19 in the country; images circulating from sargassum-infected beaches; The greater tropical activity and the uncertainty surrounding travel at this time of pandemic, make this summer the most difficult that Quintana Roo has had to face. Not counting specific episodes such as the dust from the Sahara that affected the region a week ago.

However, despite the times that the efforts are pressing, they cannot give up. And that will only be achieved if the protection measures are respected, the sanitary recommendations are complied with, and the same direction is pursued to ensure that the pandemic passes in Mexico.


The striking images of Playa del Carmen infected with sargassum

COVID-19 in Cancun: measures are prepared not to return to a red light

The most striking images of the Sahara dust cloud over the Mexican Caribbean

Cancun starts the week with orange traffic lights: what activities can and cannot be done

Written by Argentina News

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