Mexico extends COVID-19 lockdown to end of May

Soldiers patrol on a beach closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Acapulco, Mexico, April 10, 2020. (Photo: Xinhua)

MEXICO CITY, April 16 (Xinhua) -- Mexico's government on Thursday announced it will extend a nationwide lockdown until May 30 to continue to slow the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak.

However, in cities with low rates of infection, the order to stay at home could be lifted as early as May 17, the deputy minister of Health, Hugo Lopez-Gatell, told reporters at a press conference.

In those communities, schools might also be able to resume classes and non-essential businesses restart their operations, said Lopez-Gatell.

Mexico stepped up social distancing measures in late March, with an eye to possibly relaxing them at the end of April, but health experts have recommended the lockdown continue, estimating the country will see a peak in the number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations in the second half of May, said Lopez-Gatell.

Experts predict Mexico could reach the "critical stage" on May 23, and the end of the outbreak by June 25, he said.

"In any case, on June 1 we will begin to gradually resume economic and social activities," said the official.

"The measures that Mexico implemented, that Mexico anticipated, have been successful" in flattening the curve of the infection rate, which "few countries succeeded in doing," said Lopez-Gatell.

Since the outbreak was detected in Mexico on Feb. 28, the country has registered 5,847 cases of infection and 449 deaths from the virus.