As new coronavirus case numbers rise, Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell warned Thursday that stricter measures are needed to control the spread of the virus.
Speaking at the Health Ministry’s coronavirus press briefing, López-Gatell noted that national data now shows that new case numbers increased 8% in epidemiological week 41, which ran from October 4 to 10, compared to the previous week.
He said the increase in new case numbers is most marked in Chihuahua – which is set to return this weekend to the highest risk level on the national coronavirus stoplight system – Coahuila, Durango, Zacatecas and Nuevo León.
The deputy minister also noted that new case numbers are on the rise in Aguascalientes and Querétaro.
“If you live in these federal entities, the risk of Covid infection is higher,” López-Gatell said. “Therefore we have to return to general control measures similar to previous stages of the epidemic.”
Between late March and the end of May, the federal government mandated the suspension of all nonessential business activities but starting in June coronavirus restrictions applied on a state-by-state basis and the economy began to reopen.
López-Gatell didn’t specify the “general control measures” to which he referred but urged people, especially residents of high-risk states, not to go out if they don’t need to, wear face masks, practice social distancing and wash their hands frequently.
His remarks came after Director of Epidemiology José Luis Alomía presented data showing that Mexico’s accumulated case tally had increased to 874,171 with 6,612 new cases registered on Thursday. It was the second consecutive day that the Health Ministry reported more than 6,000 new cases after the single-day tally reached its highest level since mid-August on Wednesday.
Mexico’s official Covid-19 death toll rose to 87,894 on Thursday with 479 additional fatalities registered. Although Covid-19 case numbers have risen recently, deaths from the disease are on the wane, the Health Ministry said earlier this week.
Adrián Ghilardi, a researcher at the National Autonomous University and a member of the team managing the university’s Covid-19 geographic information platform, said the recent spike in case numbers is unsurprising.
“There was never a true lockdown here. People move and the virus moves, … we’re going to continue seeing an increase in positive case numbers,” he said.
In Chihuahua, where several hospitals have reached capacity, Governor Javier Corral blamed family gatherings and poor compliance on public transit systems for a sharp increase in new coronavirus cases.
Authorities in the northern border state will step up health and safety protocol enforcement to limit Covid spread, he said Thursday after Chihuahua’s state health council announced the switch from orange to red on the coronavirus stoplight system.
In neighboring Durango, also identified as a hotspot state, Governor José Rosas Aispuro said his government is looking at the possibility of implementing red light restrictions in parts of the state with high levels of infection including the capital.
“If we see next week that there is no reduction in Durango city, we’ll have to take that decision,” he said.
The governor said the state, currently orange on the federal government’s stoplight map, has sufficient space in hospitals to accommodate more coronavirus patients but noted that many healthcare facilities are understaffed.
“We have hospital infrastructure with more capacity – what we don’t have is sufficient personnel. We have beds with ventilators, … all the equipment but in many cases we lack staff,” Rosas said.
Another federal entity where tighter coronavirus restrictions are likely to be implemented is Mexico City. Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said Monday that stricter rules would be announced Friday if hospitalizations of Covid-19 patients continued to increase this week.
As of Thursday, hospitalizations had been on the rise for 13 days. There are currently more than 2,700 Covid-19 patients in hospitals in the capital including more than 700 on ventilators.
Sheinbaum said she didn’t want to prohibit any economic activities that have already been allowed to resume – among which are the operation of bars, cinemas and gyms – but suggested that the opening hours of some businesses could be reduced or they could be limited to operating only on certain days.
There has been some speculation that Mexico City could regress to red on the federal government’s stoplight map after remaining at the orange light level since late June.
The capital has recorded 151,917 confirmed coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic and 14,554 Covid-19 deaths.
No other state in the country has recorded more than 100,000 confirmed cases and only one, México state – where 94,208 people have tested positive – has recorded more than 50,000.
Similarly, Mexico City easily leads the country for Covid-19 deaths. México state, which includes numerous municipalities that are part of the greater metropolitan area of the capital, ranks second for fatalities, with 10,348 as of Thursday.
No other state has recored more than 5,000 Covid-19 fatalities but more than 4,000 people have lost their lives to the disease in each of Puebla and Veracruz.
Mexico City also ranks first for estimated active cases, with 10,617. Nuevo León ranks second with 4,259 while México state and Chihuahua have 3,387 and 3,000, respectively.