Coronavirus
A Mexico City Metro worker dispenses hand sanitizer for passengers. A Mexico City Metro worker dispenses hand sanitizer for passengers.

Covid-19: 5 dead, 405 confirmed cases; outbreak expected to peak in August

The government will provide loans to 1 million small businesses to weather the economic slump

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Mexico’s Covid-19 death toll has risen to five and there are 405 confirmed cases of the infectious disease in the country, health authorities announced on Tuesday night.

A 61-year-old woman with multiple myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells, and diabetes died of pneumonia in a Mexico City hospital on Monday evening, becoming the first female coronavirus fatality in Mexico and the fifth overall. She returned to Mexico from Spain on March 17 and developed coronavirus symptoms the next day.

The other four people to have died also had existing health problems such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity.

Health Ministry Director of Epidemiology José Luis Alomia told a press conference that 2% of the 405 people confirmed to have Covid-19 – an increase of 38 compared to Monday – are in serious condition. The vast majority are recovering at home while 10% are receiving treatment in the hospital, he said.

Mexico City has the highest number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 followed by Nuevo León, Jalisco, México state and Yucatán. Tlaxcala is the only state that has not yet reported a confirmed case.

Tuesday night's coronavirus map.
Tuesday night’s coronavirus map.

Alomia also said that there are 1,219 suspected coronavirus cases and that 2,161 people had tested negative for the disease.

At the same press conference, Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell said that authorities expected a “long epidemic that could extend until September or October.”

The highest number of cases is expected in August, he added. Earlier on Tuesday, the official announced that Mexico had entered a phase of local transmission of Covid-19, which had sickened more than 370,000 people around the world and killed more than 16,200 as of Tuesday, according to the World Health Organization. Seven Mexicans confirmed to have Covid-19 have not traveled abroad recently and are not known to have had direct contact with someone who did.

López-Gatell expressed confidence that Mexico would be able to contain the coronavirus outbreak through social distancing and other measures such as the cancellation of events with more than 100 people and the closure of schools. As a result, authorities will be able to better “manage the risk” and ensure that the health system is not overwhelmed, he said.

Separately, Mexican Social Security Institute Director of Medical Benefits Víctor Hugo Borja Aburto said that 19 new hospitals that are set to open soon will have the capacity to provide treatment to coronavirus patients.

For his part, the head of the commission that manages Mexico’s national health institutes, Gustavo Reyes Terán, said that more than 600 new beds have been added to wards in Mexico City and México state hospitals that have been set up specifically to treat Covid-19 patients.

Empty chairs indicate a slowing of economic activity.
Empty chairs indicate a slowing of economic activity.

Meanwhile, President López Obrador announced on Tuesday that he had signed a decree ordering both the public and private sectors to allow workers aged 65 and over and other vulnerable people to stay at home. The quarantined workers will continue to receive their full salaries and benefits, according to the decree.

López Obrador also called on Mexicans to take even greater care than normal of their older family members, stating, “We already do it but we must now apply ourselves more.”

In addition, the president announced that his government will provide loans to 1 million small businesses to help them get through the economic downturn caused by the spread of Covid-19.

“We’re going to provide loans without interest or with very low rates to 1 million small businesses: fondas [small restaurants], taco restaurants, workshops – all those that will be affected by the economic crisis,” López Obrador said without providing details about the size of the loans.

The mayor of Mexico City and the governors of at least nine states, including Jalisco, México state, Quintana Roo, Puebla and Nuevo León, have already ordered the temporary closure of many non-essential businesses such as bars, nightclubs, casinos, movie theaters and gyms.

The economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak in Mexico is predicted to be huge: the jobs of 18 million people could be at risk as the result of a coronavirus-fueled recession, according to a report by the bank BBVA México, and 42,000 businesses in Mexico City alone could close permanently due to a drop in consumer demand, said Eduardo Contreras, president of the Canacope business chamber.

The president announces a plan to confront the coronavirus pandemic.
The president announces a plan to confront the coronavirus pandemic.

Investment bank Credit Suisse and the Bank of America are both predicting that the Mexican economy will contract by about 4% in 2020, the peso has fallen to as low as 25 to the United States dollar, the stock market is faltering and Mexican crude prices have dropped to their lowest level since 2002.

Tourism, which contributes to around 9% of Mexico’s GDP, is one of the worst affected sectors with the number of people traveling both domestically and internationally plummeting as the coronavirus pandemic continues to worsen.

Hotel occupancy on Mexico’s Caribbean coast fell 76% in a week as the result of the Covid-19 pandemic, while 28 hotels in Quintana Roo have decided to shut temporarily due to the drastic drop in demand, according to the Hotel Association of Cancún and Puerto Morelos.

Occupancy levels in the neighboring state of Yucatán have fallen to just 5%, the newspaper El Universal reported.

The retail, transportation and restaurant industries as well as the informal sector – which provides employment for millions of Mexicans – are also expected to take a significant economic hit.

In Mexico City, street vendors in the historic center told El Universal that their sales have decreased by at least 50%, while steep price increases for essential food items have been reported in the capital.

A kilogram of tortillas increased more than 40% from 12 pesos to 17, while the price of a kilo of eggs rose almost 20% from 38 pesos to 45, El Universal reported.

Source: El Universal (sp), Milenio (sp), El Financiero (sp), Infobae (sp), Expansión Política (sp) 

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