Former health minister José Narro has slammed the federal government for its response to the coronavirus pandemic, charging that it is acting too slowly and “as if we had no problems.”
Narro, health minister in the second half of former president Enrique Peña Nieto’s six-year term between 2012 and 2018, said in a radio interview that authorities should have already taken measures to slow down the spread of Covid-19, such as canceling classes at the nation’s educational institutes and suspending large events.
“We mustn’t wait 10 days for the cases of Covid-19 to increase in order to take action … [The government] is acting in the wrong way,” he said.
Narro, also a former rector of the National Autonomous University and head of its Faculty of Medicine, said that Mexico should look to countries such as Italy, which is under a national quarantine, and the United States, which this week banned the entry of travelers from continental Europe for 30 days, for ideas about how to respond to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China, late last year.
“We see the decisions that Italy, Spain, the United States, Central and South American countries have taken and we want to continue combatting coronavirus as if it were an invention of the conservatives but it’s a public health issue,” the former minister said in a swipe at President López Obrador, who dubs all critics of his government “conservatives.”
Narro also said that there are contradictions in the messages sent by federal officials about Covid-19 and how best to avoid being infected.
“The president says ‘hug each other,’ the deputy [health] minister says there is no need to worry, the public education minister of the same government says don’t shake hands, don’t hug; this is completely contradictory,” he said.
“This is a national problem, a worldwide problem, there has to be a general public policy. The National Health Council is there to dictate the measures.”
Echoing calls from health professionals, Narro said that Mexico should be carrying out greater numbers of coronavirus tests, especially among people who are known to have come into contact with people already confirmed to have Covid-19. (There were 26 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Mexico as of Friday.)
However, he questioned the public health system’s capacity to carry out a large number of tests and to treat those who become seriously ill from the disease that had killed almost 5,000 people around the world as of Friday.
“Where are the spaces [to treat people]? Where are they going to do the tests?” Narro said.
He also questioned why Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell, rather than Health Minister Jorge Alcocer, is leading the government’s coronavirus response.
“The way in which the deputy minister is working is completely reprehensible … What I wonder is, where’s the health minister?”
In contrast, another former health minister defended the actions of health officials. José Ángel Córdova Villalobos said the actions being taken by the government over the coronavirus are those that should be taken.
When there is community transmission, he said, it will time to implement other actions, such as “social distancing,” or minimizing contact with others.
Córdova, who was health minister in the Felipe Calderón government at the time of the A/H1N1 flu virus outbreak, said the current administration is taking appropriate measures.
Source: Milenio (sp)