Mexico City will remain at the orange light high risk level on the coronavirus stoplight system next week even though the hospital occupancy rate continues to decline in the capital, while Baja California will switch to medium risk yellow on its local stoplight map on Monday.
Mexico City government official Eduardo Clark told a press conference Friday there will be no change to the risk level but urged citizens to continue following health protocols in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus, which has sickened more than half a million people in Mexico City.
Clark noted that the occupancy rate of hospital beds set aside for coronavirus patients in Mexico City hospitals had declined to 50.7% from 53% over the past week. There are currently 4,384 coronavirus patients, including 1,341 on ventilators, he said.
As of Thursday, Mexico City had recorded more than 565,000 confirmed cases and 36,034 people had lost their lives. There are just under 20,000 estimated active cases in the capital, which has endured one of the worst coronavirus epidemics anywhere in the world.
Meanwhile, Baja California Health Minister Alonso Pérez Rico said Thursday that the northern state will switch to medium risk yellow on the local stoplight map. The state is already yellow on the federal map, having switched to that color in mid-February.
The change on the state government’s map will allow capacity levels to be increased at a range of businesses and public venues in cities such as Tijuana, Mexicali and Ensenada. Gyms and sports centers will be permitted to increase their capacity to 66% of normal levels, while cinemas, theaters and churches will be allowed to operate at half their usual capacity.
Nightclubs, casinos, bars and hair salons will also be permitted to operate at 50% while the limit for hotels and restaurants will be 75%.
Pérez said that family gatherings of up to 20 people are permitted but people should meet in well-ventilated areas, keep their distance from each other and not spend more than two hours together.
Baja California, an early hotspot in the pandemic, has recorded more than 45,000 confirmed cases and 7,384 Covid-19 deaths, according to federal data.
The national tally increased to 2.11 million on Thursday with 7,521 new cases reported while the official death toll rose to 188,866 with 822 additional fatalities.
Mexico ranks 13th in the world for case numbers and third for deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. It has the 14th highest per capita death rate in the world with just under 150 Covid fatalities per 100,000 residents.
Meanwhile, the Covid-19 vaccination program is proceeding albeit at a slow pace, especially compared to the United States, where more than 82 million doses have been administered. As of Thursday night, Mexico had about 2 million unused vaccine doses in the country but only 31,185 were administered yesterday, according to Health Ministry data. A total of 2.67 million doses had been given by Thursday night, mainly to health workers and seniors.
One snag that has delayed the rollout of vaccines was that a shipment of 800,000 Sinovac Covid-19 vaccines arrived in Mexico City last Saturday without the necessary paperwork to certify the quality of the shots. However, that problem has now been resolved and the Chinese-made vaccines are scheduled to go into people’s arms this weekend.
“Good news: we received the certificate of analysis of the Sinovac vaccine. It will be able to be administered across the whole country this weekend,” Foreign Affairs Minister Marcelo Ebrard tweeted Friday above a copy of the certificate.
The government has agreements to acquire 232 million mainly two-shot vaccine doses and more than 100 million are expected to arrive before the end of May.
All of the vaccines Mexico is set to receive were developed abroad but it could one day inoculate citizens with a homegrown product. Scientists at the Autonomous University of Querétaro (UAQ) have developed a Covid-19 vaccine that has been administered to rabbits and other animals and generated an immune response and no adverse effects.
About five months after they received the shots, the animals still have antibodies that protect against the infectious disease, said Juan Joel Mosqueda Gualito, the leader of the vaccine development program.
“We’ve shown that … 150 days after giving the first dose the vaccinated animals still have antibodies circulating,” he said.
Mosqueda said that scientists at UAQ are seeking to conduct more trials at other university laboratories including ones at the National Polytechnic Institute, Tec de Monterrey and the University of Kansas in the United States.
UAQ rector Teresa García Gasca noted that scientists at the university also worked on projects a year ago to develop Covid-19 detection tests as well as antibody tests that can determine if a person was infected with the coronavirus in the past.