TREND: International tourists traveling to Mexico must be ready to meet new requirements when returning to their countries of origin. The country faces evermore dire circumstances regarding the Covid-19 pandemic with the Mexican Ministry of Health reporting over 16,000 daily new Covid-19 cases on average and reaching up to 1,400 daily Covid-19 deaths in recent weeks. The tourism industry has set up health protocols to deal with the situation in popular destinations. Still, visitors to Mexico should be aware of the risks they face during their arrival, stay, and departure. Travel between Mexico and the U.S. is still permitted, but the U.S government has now put in place Covid-19 testing requirements for air passengers arriving from Mexico. Meanwhile, the Canadian government announced last week the suspension of all flights to Mexico until April 30, with active measures to test and quarantine travelers upon their return. Americans and Canadians make up the majority of international visitors to Mexico amounting to more than 5 million of the total 7 million the country received in 2020.
•Canada announced that visitors to their country must undergo a mandatory PCR test for Covid-19 on arrival, along with a compulsory quarantine. Moreover, travelers five years of age or older must also provide a negative Covid-19 test before boarding a plane to Canada. The accepted tests for departure are PCR, RT-LAMP, LAMP, NAA; antigen tests will not be accepted. The provision applies to passengers of private, commercial, and charter flights alike, which are now required to land in only four airports: Calgary International, Montréal-Trudeau, Toronto Pearson, and Vancouver International. Use the ArriveCAN app on your phone to submit mandatory information regarding travel. Isolation is mandatory for all travelers entering Canada. Visitors and Canadian nationals must register to stay in government-approved hotels for at least three days after arrival. Travelers are responsible for covering any lodging and testing expenses. Visit the Travel Canada website by the national government for further updates on the situation.
• Air passengers entering the U.S. must now provide results of a negative Covid-19 test taken within the last three calendar days of their travel date. This requirement applies to anyone, from any nationality, from the ages of two years or older. It does not matter if a passenger has already received the Covid-19 vaccine. In cases where the traveler has recovered from this disease, they must present documentation by a licensed health care provider that verifies this happened in the last 90 days. Airlines are responsible for checking Covid-19 documentation for U.S. bound travelers. They can deny boarding to passengers lacking sufficient proof of a negative test (in English or Spanish) or of having recovered from the illness in the period mentioned above. PCR/NAAT or antigen tests are acceptable for travel. The U.S.-Mexico land border remains closed to non-essential travel. These restrictions are in place until February 21, 2021 but could be suddenly extended. Testing is not required for cross-border travel in any direction. At the U.S.-Mexico land border, patients need documentation related to their doctors’ appointments or the medicines they need from local pharmacies.
•Testing is available in some international airports in Mexico and even in some resorts in popular destinations. Airports in places such as Acapulco, Cancún, Chihuahua, Culiacán, Guadalajara, Guanajuato, Los Cabos, Los Mochis, Mazatlán, Monterrey, Mexico City (in several terminals), Puerto Vallarta, and Zihuatanejo, have installed testing sites. Some resorts in Los Cabos, Cancún, and San Miguel de Allende have done the same. The U.S. Embassy published a list of Covid-19 testing sites in Mexico as of January 27. Still, more places are being approved as the situation evolves. Keep in mind that the number of tests at any site might be limited or require an appointment. The price of tests in Mexico is not regulated and may vary with availability. On average, PCR tests might sell for MXN $2,500 (approx. US $122), and antigen ones for MXN $680 (approx. US $33). At some labs or airport terminals, debit or credit cards are the only accepted payment methods. The results of a PCR test could be available within 24 hours, although it is not always the case. Meanwhile, only 15 minutes are needed for antigen tests. Be wary of people selling apocryphal or negative tests in or around airport terminals and resorts. Remember your health and that of others is at risk.
TAKEAWAY: Mexico is still open to international tourism, but travelers should know they must comply with their respective governments’ requirements when returning home. Canadian flights to Mexico are banned, and the U.S. requires a negative Covid-19 for air passengers. Basic health protocols such as wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, and avoiding crowds are obligatory across Mexico. Factor times for Covid-19 testing and waiting for testing results into your return itinerary from Mexico if you decide to travel there.
* Spotlight by Sergio Mendoza, Senior Consultant at Riskop, a consulting firm focused on strategic intelligence and risk mitigation for investors and decision-makers in complex sociopolitical environments. It is located in Monterrey, Mexico. Twitter: @RiskopMx