Saturday, April 25, 2009

Mexico City - up front and personal

What an interesting time to be in Mexico City. Watching the inhabitants of this enormous city's response to what could turn out to be an incredibly nasty situation has been an education in the culture of the Mexican people. Watching how the government and companies are addressing the situation as well has also been interesting.

I've only been in Mexico for 7 days, which means that I had been here about 3 days when the news about the first cases started to be recognized as meaningful. Listening to the discussions about the issue in the office where I am working (a multinational insurance company) has been enlightening.

Day one of the news (at least the first day I was aware of it), people were joking around about about having the flu every time someone sneezed.

Day two, the company was distributing blue face-masks to everyone in the office, the doors were opened to ensure air circulation, and presumably the air-conditioning (if there really is any, as it always feels tropical) was turned down. People continued to joke about the flu, though the habitual greeting kiss was avoided as recommended by the government. Maybe 75% of the office population had their face masks on, both inside and outside the building. Given the speed that the face masks appeared, I wonder if they were kept in storage by the company for this eventuality. Business continuity planning at its finest.

Day three, and people seemed to be getting tired of the face masks. Those who had been wearing them, kept them round their necks, and I'm not sure if this was as a symbolic protective chalice, as a safety net in case they spotted someone who was sickly looking in their vicinity, or because they had not quite reached the stage where they had the confidence to take it off completely however much it was annoying them. Schools, universities and government institutions are shut. Hospitals and health centers are open 24/7. Keeping people apart in this crowded city is a tough proposition.

Day four. I'm not in the office as its a Saturday. A large handful of people are walking around the city wearing face masks, but I'd say the majority are not. The civil defense troops have been out in some parts of the city distributing face masks, and the metro is also handing them out. Unfortunately, I don't see the taco stand cooks wearing them, and I bet no one in the restaurant kitchens is. Maybe tonight would be a good night to stay in and cook!

The people of Mexico City seem to have taken this worrying situation in their stride, showing their typical relaxed, courteous (unless they're driving) and humorous character. The government has rolled its health plans into action quickly, calmly and without fuss, which is probably a good thing, as a city of 23 million inhabitants panicking could lead to more of a disaster than the potential spread of this nasty virus. The good thing is that people still seem to be getting on with their lives (based on the level of traffic outside my window).

Fingers crossed that the number show a positive decrease in cases over the weekend.

A post from the Improving It blog

No comments: