Coronavirus
Deputy Health Minister López-Gatell: Deputy Health Minister López-Gatell: time to reflect on virus strategy.

López-Gatell agrees it’s time to step back and rethink coronavirus strategy

Forum proposes series of measures to improve response to pandemic

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As Mexico’s official Covid-19 case tally approaches 2 million and the death toll continues to climb at a rapid pace after passing 150,000 this week, coronavirus czar Hugo López-Gatell on Wednesday committed to evaluating the national pandemic strategy with a view to improving it.

The deputy health minister made the pledge at a virtual forum at which a compilation of papers entitled Reflections on Mexico’s Response to the Covid-19 Pandemic and Suggestions to Face the Coming Years was presented.

Containing observations from 38 medical experts who attended a November coronavirus seminar organized by the National Institute of Public Health, the compilation proposes a range of government actions and measures to bring Mexico’s coronavirus pandemic under control and reduce the number of Covid-19 deaths.

Among them: improving communication about the pandemic, advocating forcefully for the use of face masks, making masks mandatory in all enclosed spaces, creating a medical guide for coronavirus patients that highlights the importance of using pulse oximeters to measure oxygen levels, accelerating the Covid-19 vaccination program, strengthening the competence of health workers, promoting a culture of hygiene and improving the systems to monitor and trace coronavirus cases and contacts.

After hearing some of the proposals, López-Gatell told the virtual forum that the government would carefully review the document they are contained in.

Graue: the health system has been overwhelmed.
Graue: the health system has been overwhelmed.

“I want to say emphatically – and in this I carry the voice of Health Minister Jorge Alcocer – that we don’t just have the joy of receiving this systematic, analytical, critical and purposeful observation but also the commitment to use it in the best way,” he said.

“[We’ll] use it to make a stop along the way, to reflect on how we can improve … Mexico’s health conditions during and beyond the Covid-19 epidemic,” López-Gatell said.

At the Health Ministry’s Wednesday night coronavirus press conference, the deputy minister said the government would announce in the coming weeks whether changes to the national coronavirus strategy that take the experts’ proposals into account will be made.

“We’re carrying out an internal reflection … to identify the specific changes that have to be made in the different areas that have been pointed out, including epidemiological surveillance, health promotion, communication of risks and social communication. There are also aspects that have to do with well-being and the economy. In the next few weeks, starting next week I hope, we’re going to present the recommendations one by one and [outline] the response the government will have with respect to them,” López-Gatell said.

The government has been widely criticized for its pandemic response, especially for not testing widely enough, failing to set an example with regard to mask wearing – President López Obrador, currently ill with Covid, has seldom worn one – and not enforcing a strict lockdown.

At Wednesday’s virtual forum, National Autonomous University Rector Dr. Enrique Graue called on the government to “take a pause on the road, leave polarization behind” and evaluate the results of its coronavirus strategy and how it can be improved. The university rector, an ophthalmologist, charged that the failure of the government’s strategy has caused Mexico’s health system to be overwhelmed with coronavirus patients.

Speaking at Wednesday night’s press conference, López-Gatell denied that was the case.

“In net terms I believe that it hasn’t and the evidence is there to see,” he said, referring to hospital occupancy levels.

Across the national health system, 60% of general care beds are currently taken but the occupancy rate in six states is 80% or higher. They are Mexico City, 88%; Guanajuato, 84%; México state, 83%; Hidalgo, 83%; Puebla, 81%; and Nuevo León, 80%.

Mexico’s accumulated tally passed 1.8 million on Wednesday with 17,944 new cases reported while the official Covid-19 death toll rose to 153,639 with 1,623 additional fatalities registered.

Source: Milenio (sp) 

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