Doctors at hospitals in several México state municipalities have warned of a “ticking time bomb” as many citizens ignore the government’s social distancing recommendations amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Doctors in municipalities including Tlalnepantla, Ecatepec, Tecámac, Nezahualcóyotl, La Paz and Chalco – all of which are in the greater Mexico City metropolitan area – told the newspaper El Financiero that many residents don’t accept that Covid-19 even exists or don’t follow the recommended health measures, such as staying at home, because of their precarious economic situation.
Markets are crowded with people, street food stalls and small restaurants known as fondas continue to attract large numbers of customers, public transit is full, children are playing in the streets and locals are holding parties, they added.
It’s like there is no health risk at all, the doctors said, describing the gatherings as “large focuses of infection.”
The doctors charged that municipal authorities are not doing enough to warn people about Covid-19 and its risks and as a consequence residents are continuing to work, go shopping and eat outside their homes as if coronavirus didn’t exist.
Some patients with the telltale symptoms of coronavirus, such as fever and a dry cough, are not tested for the disease and therefore their illnesses are not classified as Covid-19, they said. The doctors also said that their hospitals lack equipment, medicines and personnel to give adequate treatment to coronavirus patients.
“This situation turns these marginalized areas into a ticking time bomb that could explode very soon,” they told El Financiero.
“After Mexico City, we’re the state with the most cases. … The problem will be huge without the reorganization of hospitals, without [enough] ventilators.”
Mónica Bautista, a federal deputy who represents México state, said that the doctors’ demand for more personal protective equipment (PPE) has not been met. The lack of PPE is the cause of Covid-19 infections among medical personnel in the state, she said, adding that the director of the emergency department at the La Perla hospital in Nezahualcóyotl lost his life to the disease.
Bautista, a lawmaker with the Democratic Revolution Party, was also critical of the fact that some doctors are earning a fortnightly salary of just 8,000 pesos (US $340). The doctors themselves said that about 20% of those employed at public hospitals in several México state municipalities don’t even have a contract and as a result cannot access benefits including free medical care.
Although President López Obrador claimed on Saturday that “the vast majority” of Mexicans are doing the right thing and staying at home as much as possible, the picture painted by the México state doctors tells a very different story.
Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell also contradicted the president, stating Saturday night that social distancing recommendations are not being adhered to as the government would like in some parts of the country.
“Schools were closed on March 23 and that was the most solid contribution to the healthy distance [initiative] because from one day to the next about 15 million stopped traveling [on the nation’s streets]. The suspension of the remainder of [nonessential] activities was added later but … it hasn’t been fully respected,” he told reporters at the nightly coronavirus press briefing.
López-Gatell called on state health authorities and governors to take the necessary decisions and implement the operations required to ensure that the social distancing rules are upheld.
A stricter “stay at home” rule to limit the spread of Covid-19 took effect in Sonora on Monday and Nuevo León Governor Jaime Rodríguez Calderón said Friday that his government was also considering the option of using the police to ensure people comply with the order not to go out.
Although he said on March 31 that the commencement of the government’s social distancing initiative should soon result in a decrease in the number of coronavirus cases reported on a daily basis, López-Gatell said Saturday that it was still too soon to know the impact of the measures put in place.
Confirmed cases of Covid-19 have continued to rise steadily in April and the total is now approaching 5,000. Just under 300 people in Mexico have lost their lives to the disease, which has now killed close to 120,000 people around the world.