The pace of growth in new coronavirus case numbers is slowing, Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell said Tuesday.
“In the first three weeks of 2022 we had very rapid increases in the number of cases due to the presence of the omicron variant as the predominant [strain] in Mexico,” the coronavirus point man told reporters at President López Obrador’s regular news conference.
However, case numbers during epidemiological week 4, which began Sunday, have only increased by 12%, López-Gatell said without revealing the period to which he was comparing data for the past two days.
“This is a very substantial change; we’re starting to see a change in the trend and this of course reduces the number … of estimated cases that are active,” he said.
“This, I insist, must be taken with caution, we’re informing in real time, but if it’s maintained it could be the beginning of a change in the trend of growth,” the deputy minister said.
What he didn’t mention is that reported infections are invariably lower on Sundays and Mondays due to a drop-off in testing and/or the recording and reporting of test results on weekends. The weekly decline typically causes active case numbers to drop on those two days before they begin to increase again from Tuesday on.
Estimated active cases numbered more than 362,000 on Saturday but declined to just over 294,000 on Monday, a 19% drop.
The number will almost certainly rise when the Health Ministry publishes its daily COVID report later on Tuesday.
López-Gatell also presented data that showed that 43% of general care hospital beds and 25% of those with ventilators are currently occupied.
He said the total number of hospitalized COVID patients is 70% lower than the pandemic peak, recorded during Mexico’s second wave of infections in late 2020 and early 2021. There are currently just under 8,200 people in COVID wards, compared to a pandemic high of about 27,000.
Although many hospitals have reached 100% occupancy, López-Gatell asserted that the health system has always had the capacity to treat all patients sick with COVID. “There is space available at all times,” he said.
“… But as we have emphasized – we can see it in hospitalizations and … deaths – omicron is characteristically a variant that causes milder disease. … Although it spreads quickly, causing a large number of cases, they’re not serious cases,” López-Gatell said, adding that Mexico’s high vaccination rate (among adults at least) allows for “a much more manageable epidemic.”
Through vaccination and/or infection the majority of people will eventually gain immunity to the coronavirus, he added.
“That, in time, could contribute to [bringing] an end to the epidemic period, not just in Mexico but in the world,” the Johns Hopkins University-trained epidemiologist said.
In other COVID-19 news:
• Mexico’s accumulated case tally increased to 4.68 million on Monday with 17,938 additional infections reported. The official COVID-19 death toll rose by 118 to 303,301. The estimated active case tally is 294,029, but will likely rise above 300,000 after Tuesday’s case numbers are reported.
• A federal court has ordered the federal government to vaccinate one child aged six and another aged 11.
The government hasn’t offered shots to children aged under 15, with the exception of those 12 and over who have an underlying health condition that makes them vulnerable to serious illness if they contract COVID.
The Mexico City-based federal court’s directive on Tuesday came after the families of two children took legal action aimed at compelling the government to offer them shots.
Two doctors offered professional opinions to the court that advocated the inoculation of children aged five to 11 with the Pfizer vaccine, the only shot that is approved for use on minors in Mexico.
The court acknowledged that Mexico’s health regulator has not approved vaccination for children aged under 12, but noted that international authorities, including those in the United States, have established that vaccination with the Pfizer shot is safe and effective for minors in that age cohort. It also recognized that children have a constitutional right to essentials such as health care, food and education.
Federal authorities are now obliged to set a date and time for the vaccination of the two children.
The court’s ruling paves the way for more children to obtain court orders directing the government to vaccinate them.