A red light maximum alert warning now applies in nine municipalities in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region of Oaxaca due to an increase in coronavirus cases and deaths.
State and municipal authorities have imposed red light restrictions in Juchitán de Zaragoza, Ciudad Ixtepec, Salina Cruz, Santo Domingo Tehuantepec, Santo Domingo Ingenio, El Barrio de La Soledad, El Espinal, Magdalena Tequisistlán and Santa María Xadani.
Residents of two of those municipalities, Magdalena Tequisistlán and Santa María Xadani, are subject to curfews. The former saw case numbers explode after an infected person arrived by taxi last month.
The region escaped the worst effects of the first and second waves of the pandemic but has seen a surge in cases as the highly contagious delta strain of the virus takes hold in Mexico. Hospitals in the area are now under intense pressure and some seriously ill Covid-19 patients have been unable to find a bed and died at home.
The third wave of the pandemic has also hit other parts of Oaxaca, which is currently high risk orange on the federal stoplight map. There are currently 2,361 active cases in the southern state, according to Health Ministry estimates, but that figure is almost certainly a vast undercount because it’s based on confirmed cases and testing levels in Mexico remain very low.
In Santa María Colotepec, a municipality where part of the beach destination Puerto Escondido is located, 15 to 20 people per day are dying with Covid, according to a municipal official.
“… [Covid-19] has affected them a lot because we don’t have medical care, there are no hospitals that treat Covid patients,” Saul Martínez told the newspaper Milenio.
“We have to go to neighboring municipalities to see if their clinics or hospitals accept us but the response is always no,” he said.
Colotepec resident Giovanny Vázquez said her father was turned away from the IMSS #32 hospital in Puerto Escondido without even being tested for Covid-19 despite having the telltale symptoms of the disease. He died at home two weeks later.
Paying for care in a private hospital is out of reach for families of limited means, many of whom also face high costs for oxygen required to keep their loved ones alive.
Martínez said many people unable to afford professional medical treatment have used home remedies to treat Covid.
“They make eucalyptus tea in a pot and add red onion, garlic [and Vick’s] VapoRub,” he said. “They’re remedies of our ancestors that are saving lives today,” the official claimed.
Many people would consider vaccination a better option, but the take-up rate has been lower in Oaxaca than most other states, leading the federal government to intensify efforts to get shots into the arms of residents there and in four other states with low rates.
Across Mexico, about 53% of adults have had at least one shot of a vaccine but tens of millions of Mexicans remain unvaccinated. The coronavirus, and in particular the delta strain, is taking advantage of their vulnerability, infecting almost 330,000 people in July, according to official numbers, the second highest monthly total of the pandemic after January.
The Health Ministry reported an additional 20,685 cases on Wednesday, lifting Mexico’s accumulated total to just over 2.9 million. The official Covid-19 death toll rose by 611 to 242, 547, the fourth highest total in the world after those of the United States, Brazil and India.