MEXICO CITY, April 26 (Reuters) - Mexico will begin removing staff from Gulf of Mexico oil platforms to limit the spread of the coronavirus, leaving only essential personnel on board, local media and a source familiar with the matter said on Sunday.
Employees beginning on Monday will start to be withdrawn from the rigs, which will be left with between half and a quarter of their normal personnel, said a source at state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex), speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Indispensable staff will remain on board to keep up production,” the source said, noting most of the workers would disembark via the Gulf port city of Ciudad del Carmen. “It’s a situation similar to when a hurricane comes.”
Still, the reductions are likely to crimp output, the source said.
Agencia Sien, an online news service based in Ciudad del Carmen, said more than 5,000 workers would return to land from various installations as the government implements its most stringent measures yet to combat coronavirus.
Neither Pemex nor the Mexican Energy Ministry responded to requests for comment.
Pemex has so far confirmed 229 cases of coronavirus and 27 deaths. Four of the dead were current workers, 14 were retired, one an external employee and eight were relatives of workers.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has made increasing output at Pemex a top priority of his administration.
Earlier this month, he fought hard to avoid having to commit to cuts of the magnitude of other countries in discussions with the OPEC+ group of oil producers aimed at stabilizing crude prices.
OPEC+ had pressed Mexico to make cuts of 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) but Lopez Obrador agreed only to 100,000 bpd in May and June and said the United States had pledged to make up most of the difference.
The Pemex source said the personnel reductions on platforms would likely lead to a drop in oil output considerably higher than the cuts Mexico had agreed to.
Offshore areas in the Gulf produce around 1.4 million bpd of Mexico’s total output of some 1.7 million bpd.
Mexico currently plans to lift its coronavirus quarantine measures starting the end of May. (Reporting by Adriana Barrera; Additional reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Will Dunham)