The number of confirmed cases of the new coronavirus Covid-19 rose to 53 on Sunday after health authorities announced 12 new cases.
Mexico City has the highest number with 18, followed by Puebla and Querétaro, with six each, and Nuevo León, with five.
Ten other states, including Jalisco, México state and Yucatán, have recorded at least one confirmed case of Covid-19, which had sickened just over 153,500 people around the world as of Sunday and caused 5,735 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.
Of the 53 people in Mexico confirmed to have the infectious disease, 60% are men and 40% are women and their ages range between 19 and 73, said Ricardo Cortés Alcalá, general director of health promotion at the federal Health Ministry.
He told a press conference Sunday night that only 17% of the patients with Covid-19 have required hospitalization. The majority of patients only have mild symptoms and were recovering in isolation at their homes, Cortés said, adding that three people have already recovered completely.
The official said that 314 people had been identified as coming into contact with the 53 known cases of Covid-19 and that 16 have developed symptoms of the disease and are in isolation.
For his part, Gustavo Reyes Terán, head of the commission that manages Mexico’s national health institutes and specialty hospitals, said that two patients are in “grave” condition.
There were reports Sunday night that 71-year-old businessman José Kuri had become the first person with Covid-19 to die in Mexico but health authorities said later that he had not passed away but was in critical condition.
President López Obrador confirmed at his regular news conference on Monday morning that Kuri – believed to have been infected with Covid-19 during a recent trip to the United States ski resort town of Vail, Colorado – had not died in the Mexico City hospital where he is receiving treatment.
While the number of people confirmed to be infected with Covid-19 in Mexico remains low in comparison with many other countries, the national caseload has risen quickly in recent days. Last Monday, there were just five confirmed coronavirus cases, meaning that the total number increased 960% in less than a week.
A widespread outbreak of the disease is seen as “inevitable” although there is still no evidence that Covid-19 is spreading via community transmission within Mexico.
Still, the Ministry of Public Education announced on Saturday that Easter holidays for the nation’s school students would start on March 20, two weeks earlier than scheduled, and run through April 20.
However, the governments of three states – Jalisco, Yucatán and Guanajuato – have since announced that they are bringing forward the commencement of the vacation period to Tuesday.
Jalisco Governor Enrique Alfaro said Sunday that waiting until the end of this week to suspend classes is the “wrong decision.”
“Classes have to be suspended now, it’s absurd to allow four more days [of classes],” he said, adding that starting holidays at the start rather the end of the week could have a “very important” impact “in terms of prevention.”
Alfaro said that his government would hold talks with the private sector to discuss how parents could be supported in relation to taking care of their children during the extended vacation period. He also said that the Jalisco Education Ministry will work with teachers to draw up a plan to compensate for the loss of classes.
Announcing the suspension of classes as of Tuesday in Guanajuato, Governor Diego Sinhue said that his government will not “skimp on preventative actions” in order to protect residents from exposure to Covid-19.
For his part, Yucatán Governor Mauricio Vila said that in addition to the school closures from tomorrow, the archaeological sites of Chichén Itzá and Dzibilchaltún will not open later this week for planned equinox events that usually attract large crowds.
Meanwhile, President López Obrador said Sunday that he has “a lot of faith” that the Covid-19 pandemic will not have an adverse impact on Mexico.
“The misfortunes, pandemics are not going to do anything to us,” he said during a tour of the Costa Chica region of Guerrero.
“[Mexican] culture always saves us from earthquakes, floods, epidemics, bad governments, corruption; we can confront all these calamities.”
López Obrador also suggested on the weekend that people should read the Gabriel García Márquez novel Love in the Time of Cholera, describing the book as “a balm to calm us.”
On the weekend, the president followed through with his pledge to continue to greet citizens with hugs and kisses despite the advice of his deputy health minister to avoid such salutations.
López Obrador posted five videos to his social media accounts on Sunday that show him kissing and hugging his supporters on the Guerrero coast and freely giving handshakes.
His decision not to observe the practice of “social distancing” recommended by the World Health Organization and other health authorities triggered strong criticism on social media.
“Hopefully [Deputy Health Minister] Hugo López-Gatell sits President López Obrador down and explains to him that these are not times of rallies, kisses and hugs but of responsible leadership,” political scientist and columnist Denise Dresser wrote on Twitter.
There was also widespread criticism that the Vive Latino musical festival, attended by tens of thousands of fans, was allowed to go ahead in Mexico City on Saturday and Sunday.
The journalist Monica Garza took aim at Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum, claiming that her decision not to cancel the event headlined by United States hard rock band Guns N’ Roses, among other acts, was irresponsible.
The organizers of the event checked each person’s temperature as they entered the venue and a strong smell of antibacterial gel permeated the air, the Associated Press reported, while noting that attendees still crowded together to watch the performances.
One fan told AP that he believed that many people are overreacting to the potential danger of being infected with Covid-19 at large gatherings.
“I consider it is more a collective hysteria than any other thing. In Mexico we have a culture of a little bit more of hygiene that helps us to limit this kind of transmission,” Alan Miranda said.
The Health Ministry announced Monday evening that there were 24 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 82. Most presented mild symptoms and did not require hospitalization. Of the remainder, only two were reported in serious condition.