The federal government’s coronavirus czar has mocked six former health ministers after they penned a proposed strategy to combat the coronavirus pandemic, saying ironically that they should patent their “innovative” formula.
“If there is a select group of former health ministers who have the formula to control the epidemic in six or eight weeks, it could lead to a kind of patent because that is needed all over the whole world given that the epidemic is still active in the whole world,” said Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell.
“Only China has ended the epidemic, … we’ve seen in European countries that they’re now recording new outbreaks.”
López-Gatell’s sarcastic remarks came after a group affiliated with the Citizens Movement political party published a report by six former health ministers who served in the administrations of ex-presidents Miguel de la Madrid, Vicente Fox, Felipe Calderón and Enrique Peña Nieto.
Entitled “Covid-19: Preliminary Analysis and Urgent Recommendations,” the report criticized the federal government for its pandemic response, especially its reluctance to test widely and its “anti-science resistance” to the use of face masks, and set out a new national plan to get on top of the coronavirus outbreak in a period of six to eight weeks.
Among their recommendations, the former health ministers urged a national testing campaign, advocated localized lockdowns in areas with high numbers of cases and proposed making face masks mandatory nationwide.
López-Gatell invited the former officials to submit their strategy to the World Health Organization and Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard.
“It’s always encouraging to see that people have initiative,” he said before adding that it was a “coincidence” that the former health ministers were presenting their strategy at a time when the government is predicting a significant reduction in coronavirus cases in precisely six to eight weeks.
“I don’t know if it took them a long time due to the complexity of the document, we’re not complaining … but if there is such an innovative formula they should have presented it before,” López-Gatell said.
He said that he was unaware whether the report was sponsored by a political party, adding that it was curious that the former health ministers had spoken out against a lack of health infrastructure and medical personnel given that they were once responsible for managing the public health system.
He also indicated he hadn’t read the report by “these illustrious ex-ministers” and planned to find a copy of “the magic formulas.”
President López Obrador has said that his administration inherited a public health system that is “in ruins” and pledged shortly after he took office that Mexico would have a system comparable to those in Canada, the United Kingdom and Denmark in two years.
But in his second year in office, the coronavirus pandemic – which has claimed the lives of almost 70,000 people in Mexico as of Thursday – has brought shortcomings in the public health system into sharp focus: many hospitals have a shortage of basic equipment, medication and personnel and some don’t even have soap.
In response to López-Gatell’s remarks about the coronavirus report, one of its authors called on the deputy minister to show humility and take the time to read it.
“Hopefully Deputy Minister Hugo López-Gatell makes time to review the document,” Salomón Chertorivski, health minister in the final year of the Calderón government, wrote on Twitter.
“In it we evaluate the actions and [coronavirus] policy of the Mexican government and propose a way to correct [the situation]. 67,000 deaths oblige us to be serious and him to be humble,” he said.
In a second tweet directed to López-Gatell, Chertorivski provides a link to the report and calls for the coronavirus czar to meet with the former health ministers “to discuss the emergency.”
“Today Mexico needs rigor, science [and] evidence, …[not] rancor and polarization. We’re facing a national crisis and what’s important is to control the epidemic now. It’s about saving the lives of thousands of Mexicans. With dismissive insults, the coronavirus wins,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, Mexico’s accumulated tally of confirmed coronavirus cases increased to 652,364 on Thursday with 4,857 new cases registered, and the official Covid-19 death toll rose to 69,649 with 554 additional fatalities reported.
Source: El Universal (sp)