Coronavirus
López-Gatell addresses Tuesday's press briefing. López-Gatell addresses Tuesday's press briefing.

Health minister says virus curve is flattening; peak contagions will be seen Friday

Case numbers are doubling every six days rather than every two

Mexico’s coronavirus curve is flattening, Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell said on Tuesday, as the country recorded its biggest single-day increase to its Covid-19 death toll.

López-Gatell told a press conference at the National Palace that thanks to the social distancing measures put in place, case numbers are now doubling every six days whereas earlier in the pandemic they were doubling every two days.

“What that means is that the epidemic is increasingly slower, we’ve flattened the curve. But so that nobody gets confused and misunderstands, flattening the curve doesn’t mean that it’s completely flat. And completely flat wouldn’t mean that we don’t have an epidemic,” he said.

The deputy minister said that the national social distancing initiative that officially commenced on March 23 has succeeded in keeping Covid-19 infections about 75% lower than what they would have otherwise been.

“Without mitigation interventions” the peak of Covid-19 transmission would have been on April 2 – “a very early peak” López-Gatell said.

Covid-19 cases in Mexico as of Tuesday evening.
Covid-19 cases in Mexico as of Tuesday evening. milenio

“We have gained time,” he said, adding that the most recent prediction is that the transmission peak will be this Friday.

“I said May 6 [but by] updating the prediction an additional gain is seen,” López-Gatell said, explaining that the epidemic curve is “flatter now than what was predicted on April 29.”

But while the curve is flattening in most states, Covid-19 case numbers have recently risen sharply in Morelos, Nayarit and San Luis Potosí.

With clusters of infections popping up in different parts of the country and the appearance of new outbreaks inevitable, López-Gatell stressed that stopping a pandemic from one day to the next is impossible, describing any notion that is possible as “a fantasy.”

He said that in the situation currently faced by Mexico, there are three main objectives: to delay the peak of the pandemic, to bring the epidemic curve under control and to have fewer overall cases. However, the flattening of the curve will only be maintained “if we stay at home,” the deputy minister emphasized.

In an interview with the news agency Reuters on Monday, López-Gatell declared that Mexico is winning the battle against coronavirus, asserting that there is sufficient spare capacity in the health system to respond to the pandemic’s peak.

Mexico City continues to be the federal entity with the highest number of Covid-19 deaths.
Mexico City continues to be the federal entity with the highest number of Covid-19 deaths. milenio

“The numbers are encouraging. We still have a very broad response capacity,” he said, adding that Mexico has managed to “change the course of the epidemic” via social distancing measures including the closure of schools and the suspension of all nonessential economic activities.

But while touting the position Mexico is currently in, López-Gatell conceded that it was likely that a “second big wave of Covid-19” will come with the arrival of flu season in October. He also conceded that the number of coronavirus-related deaths is probably higher than that reported by health authorities.

Influenza deaths are underestimated every year “so it would be no different in the case of an emerging disease like Covid-19,” López-Gatell said.

That remark came a day before the Health Ministry reported 236 new deaths on Tuesday, the first time that the daily death toll has exceeded 200. Mexico’s tally of coronavirus-related fatalities now stands at 2,507, the 15th highest in the world.

Director of Epidemiology José Luis Alomía said Tuesday night that an additional 224 fatalities are suspected to have been caused by Covid-19 but have not yet been confirmed.

Based on confirmed Covid-19 deaths and cases, Mexico’s fatality rate is currently 9.6 per 100 cases.

Alomía also reported 1,120 new Covid-19 cases, taking Mexico’s accumulated number of confirmed cases to 26,025. Of that number, 6,708 cases are considered active, he said.

There are also 16,099 suspected coronavirus cases across the country, while more than 105,000 people have now been tested for Covid-19.

Mexico City continues to lead the country in terms of both accumulated and active cases, with 6,999 of the former and 1,714 of the latter. The capital also has the highest coronavirus death toll in the country with 543 fatalities to date. Baja California is second with 289 deaths while México state has reported the third highest number of fatalities, with 227.

Health Ministry data shows that only 31% of general care beds set aside for Covid-19 patients across the country are currently occupied, while only one in four beds with ventilators are in use.

However, the availability of beds is much lower in Mexico City hospitals, where 71% of general care beds and 58% of those with ventilators are currently occupied by Covid 19 patients.

Source: El Universal (sp), Milenio (sp), Reuters (sp) 

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