(Re-casts, adds comments by president)
MEXICO CITY, April 16 (Reuters) - Mexico’s president on Thursday said the country was looking to return to normal beginning June 1, with schools and businesses reopening provided people comply with anti-coronavirus health measures until then.
The coronavirus outbreak reached Mexico later than the United States and many European nations, officials say. But the economic impact has been significant, with the peso currency weakening about 29% against the dollar over the past three months.
Government health experts have recommended Mexico extend measures to contain the coronavirus until May 30, though the health ministry said restrictions could be eased beginning May 17 in areas where virus transmissions are non-existent or very low.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said things can go back to normal on May 17 in areas with low coronavirus infection rates, though restrictions would continue for the elderly, pregnant women and people with illnesses such as diabetes.
“In the rest of the country ... the restart of educational activity ... and all productive activities will be from June 1 as long as we continue to comply with all measures,” Lopez Obrador said during his daily morning news conference.
Mexico on Wednesday reported 448 new coronavirus cases and 43 deaths, bringing the country’s total to 5,847 cases and 449 deaths. However, Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell last week said Mexico may have as many as 26,500 infected people.
Lopez Obrador has focused his coronavirus response on shielding the poor during the economic slowdown, with the leftist leader often pointing out that many in Mexico are living a hand-to-mouth existence.
On Thursday, Lopez Obrador said an additional 1 million loans would be made available to small businesses and said government spending to stimulate the economy would be concentrated to the months of May and June.
Last month he was roundly denounced for suggesting people with means should keep going to restaurants and spending money to keep the economy afloat, even as many businesses and states were advocating for people to stay at home.
Big business groups and analysts have also criticised Lopez Obrador for Mexico’s modest stimulus package, which lags behind the vast government spending in other G20 nations. (Reporting by Dave Graham; writing by Drazen Jorgic Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)
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