The number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Mexico increased by 46 on Thursday to 164, health authorities reported.
The single-day increase is the largest since the new coronavirus was first detected in Mexico at the end of February.
Health Ministry Director of Epidemiology José Luis Alomía told a press conference that there were also 448 suspected cases of Covid-19 as of Thursday and that three patients were in serious condition. One person suspected of having Covid-19 also died on Thursday, he said.
“We had a death today that is classified as suspicious. … He was one of the people who was waiting for results [of a Covid-19 test]; we’re waiting for the results to see if it could be a confirmed case,” Alomía said.
The Durango Health Ministry said in a statement that the patient who died was a 74-year-old man who was hospitalized in Gómez Palacio.Interactive coronavirus map indicates confirmed cases, state by state.
He returned to Mexico from California, United States, earlier this month without symptoms of Covid-19 but later developed them, the ministry said, adding that he had suffered from hypertension for the past 15 years.
If test results confirm that the man had Covid-19, he will become the second fatality linked to the disease in Mexico after a 41-year-old México state man who died in hospital on Wednesday night.
His wife said she believed that her husband had been infected with coronavirus while attending a concert by the Swedish band Ghost in Mexico City on March 3.
However, the Health Ministry’s Alomía said that authorities believe that he didn’t attend the concert.
The official also said that Mexico is still in Stage 1 of the coronavirus outbreak, meaning that people confirmed to have Covid-19 either traveled abroad recently or had contact with someone who did.
Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell said on March 12 that authorities expected community transmission of the disease to begin within about 15 days.
Also on Thursday, the government’s General Health Council (CSG) declared Covid-19 a “serious disease” that must be given “priority attention.”
At an extraordinary meeting of the council, chaired by Health Minister Jorge Alcocer, Covid-19 preparation, prevention and control measures designed by the Health Ministry were approved, López-Gatell said.
The CSG urged state governors to present their plans to reorganize and expand the capacity of hospitals to ensure that they can cope with any influx of Covid-19 patients. There is concern that the public health system might not have enough intensive care beds to treat all patients who require such treatment if there is a widespread coronavirus outbreak.
Federal Civil Protection chief David León, who also attended the CSG meeting, called on the public to remain calm in the face of the growing health crisis and to follow the recommendations of health authorities.
President López Obrador on Thursday appealed to people to stay at home to help slow the spread of Covid-19, although he ruled out the possibility of imposing a curfew or restricting people’s right to move about freely.
There is already evidence that more and more people are choosing to remain at home as much as possible to avoid infection.
Streets of Mexico’s large cities are quieter than usual, and people are increasingly making purchases on the internet rather than in brick-and-mortar stores, according to the Mexican Association of Online Sales (AMVO).
“We’re seeing in Mexico what is happening in other countries due to the coronavirus,” said AMVO general director Pierre Blaise.
“It’s too early to have official numbers but the businesses with which we are speaking have triple-digit growth [in online sales], which shows the interest in this way of shopping,” he said.
According to data analytics company Nielsen México, the most sought-after product for online shoppers is currently wet wipes. Demand for the product has soared 243% compared to the 2019 weekly average while sales of tinned sardines, canned tuna, domestic cleaning gloves and cleaning liquids have all increased by more than 100%.
Restaurant food delivery company Rappi reported that demand for its services has tripled in recent days, while Click Abasto, an online shopping platform for products at Mexico City’s Central de Abasto market, has seen sales increase by 50%.
People shopping on Click Abasto are also spending much more than usual: each customer is now spending 3,000 pesos (US $125) on average compared to 700 pesos before the coronavirus pandemic began affecting Mexico.
Most shoppers are stocking up on foodstuffs such as rice, beans, eggs, tuna and sardines.
The founder of Click Abasto, María Esther Rodríguez de la Serda, said that the site will start selling toilet paper and other personal hygiene products as of Monday due to the strong demand amid fears that a widespread outbreak of Covid-19 in Mexico is inevitable.
UPDATE, Friday, March 20, 7:40 p.m. CST: The Ministry of Health announced this evening that coronavirus has claimed a second victim. The total number of cases rose today by 39 to 203.