Residents of Mexico City are challenging coronavirus warnings amid a Christmas shopping spree

MEXICO CITY, (Reuters) – Tired of months of captivity, Christmas shoppers have been crowding stores in Mexico City this week despite a sharp rise in coronavirus cases that has put strain on hospitals in the capital.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has pleaded with Mexico City residents to avoid being out on the streets as much as possible during the normal festival holiday season.

“There have been more hospitals, more spread of the virus, and together we can control this situation,” he said.

The mayor of Mexico City announced a “COVID-19 crisis” last week. The city of about 9 million people has registered over 19,000 deaths related to the novel coronavirus, and a fifth of nearly 1.3 million confirmed cases are in Mexico.

City center bars and restaurants were required to close at 5 pm as part of restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Despite the warnings, people have flooded the city’s shopping areas, bought Christmas presents from street vendors or waited in long lines to get into shops.

“People are very stubborn, don’t follow orders and don’t know how to look after themselves,” lamented Patricia Cárdenas, artisanal handicraft salesman.

Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum on Wednesday reiterated her call for residents to avoid large gatherings.

“If we do not level the curve of infection, we will not be able to overcome this epidemic,” he told a news conference.