Mexico has surpassed one million coronavirus cases, according to top health officials and recorded nearly 100,000 confirmed deaths.
Mexican Director-General of Health Promotion Ricardo Cortes Alcala announced on Saturday that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Mexico now stood at 1,003,253, with at least 98,259 deaths from COVID-19.
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The country has the world’s fourth-highest death toll from the virus after the United States, Brazil and India, according to an AFP news agency tally based on official figures. It also has the 11th-highest number of infections.
Critics blame the increasing COVID-19 toll on the government’s refusal to follow internationally accepted practices in pandemic management, from face mask-wearing to lockdowns, testing and contact tracing.
Assistant Health Secretary Hugo Lopez-Gatell has previously said any wider testing would be “a waste of time, effort and money” and face masks “an auxiliary measure to prevent spreading the virus”.
Since the pandemic began, Mexico has managed to administer only about 2.5 million tests to its citizens; only seriously ill people get tested in Mexico. Testing only 1.9 percent of the population since the pandemic began has made it hard, if not impossible, to effectively trace contacts, catch outbreaks early or identify asymptomatic cases.
Meanwhile, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador almost never wears a mask, and Lopez-Gatell only occasionally does.
The government earlier declared a lockdown on March 23, although essential economic activities remained open, with no penalites for non-compliance.
Mexico City, the epicentre of the country’s outbreak, has tried an alternative approach, which is to identify neighbourhoods where clusters of cases have occurred and give them special attention. Lurid yellow warning posters reading “Caution! You are entering an area of high infection” now dot the city. Special kiosks are set up in such neighbourhoods to provide some tests and a few health workers have gone door-to-door looking for cases. But that is rare.
The Mayor of Mexico City Claudia Sheinbaum announced on Friday the closure of bars for 15 days and earlier closing times for restaurants, cinemas and gyms due to the spike in coronavirus infections and hospital admissions over the last week.
Sheinbaum also said that daily tests will be increased to 10,000.
For doctors on the front lines, the official response has been at times frustrating.
Dr Arturo Galindo, head of the infectious disease programme at the National Medical Sciences and Nutrition Institute, one of Mexico’s leading public hospitals, has seen his intensive care unit fill up to 100 percent capacity in recent weeks as Mexicans relaxed and began holding more get-togethers. The hospital is now sending critical COVID-19 cases to other treatment centres.
“I have had arguments on the street when I say: “Hey, put your face mask on,” and people argue with me, citing the argument ‘well, the president doesn’t,’ and that is their only argument,” Galindo told The Associated Press news agency.
“It wouldn’t be bad if he (Lopez Obrador) set an example.”