Coronavirus
Masked shoppers in Mexico City this week. Masked shoppers in Mexico City this week.

Why so few cases of coronavirus? Deputy minister explains

In other countries the disease was detected earlier

Mexico currently has a low number of confirmed cases of novel coronavirus Covid-19 because the first case was detected just two weeks ago, Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell said on Friday.

Speaking at the president’s morning news conference, López-Gatell said that countries such as the United States and Spain – where there were more than 1,700 and 4,000 Covid-19 cases, respectively, as of Friday morning – have many more cases than Mexico, where 16 people are confirmed to be infected, because the disease was detected there earlier.

“Why isn’t Mexico at that level? Because Mexico [where the first case was detected February 27] has a difference of one month with respect to … the detection of the first case,” he said.

Although the first case of Covid-19 wasn’t detected in Mexico until the end of February, authorities began monitoring for its presence in the middle of January, López-Gatell added, explaining that 9,100 Covid-19 tests have been carried out, 1,500 of which were conducted at the Institute of Epidemiological Diagnosis in Mexico City.

“We’ve done the same monitoring as all countries [with high numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases] but they had cases approximately one month before [Mexico],” the deputy minister said.

His remarks come after a Mexico City infectious disease specialist said that Mexico should be carrying out more tests to detect cases of Covid-19. Francisco Moreno Sánchez, head of internal medicine at the ABC hospital, asserted that there are “many more cases” of coronavirus in Mexico than those confirmed and predicted that the country will see a widespread outbreak.

“I’m worried about the lack of diagnostic testing. If Mexico has undetected cases circulating, the spread of the disease is going to be brutal,” he said.

López-Gatell, who said Thursday that community transmission could occur within 15 days, acknowledged Friday that it is very probable that there will be hundreds of cases in Mexico at the least.

He said that it was no surprise that cases of Covid-19 were detected in United States before Mexico because the U.S. has greater exposure to countries where high numbers of people are infected.

In comparison with Mexico, the influx of airline passengers to the United States and that country’s trade relationship with China and European nations are “much more intense,” López-Gatell said.

As concern grows that a more widespread outbreak of coronavirus is nigh, the health official appealed for calm, stating that the government has a response plan ready to go that could include placing restrictions on large events.

AMLO arrives Thursday in Hermosillo. No 'social distancing' for the president.
AMLO arrives Thursday in Hermosillo. No ‘social distancing’ for the president.

“It could be useful to restrict events but not in a disorderly way. It has to be done when it’s appropriate, maintaining order, calm and institutional discipline,” he said.

López-Gatell noted that misinformation about coronavirus has begun to spread, explaining that two false statements attributed to the governors of Aguascalientes and Quintana Roo circulated on Thursday. One announced that the San Marcos Fair in Aguascalientes had been canceled and the other that classes had been suspended in Quintana Roo, he said.

The deputy minister also said that a false notification attributed to the Health Ministry circulated on social media, urging people to get tested for Covid-19. That resulted in a huge number of calls to a government hotline set up to provide information about the disease.

Mexico News Daily can confirm that the hotline was busy on Thursday as more than 20 attempts to get into contact with health authorities to seek information about where Covid-19 testing is available were unsuccessful.

Mexico News Daily did, however, receive a response to an e-mail sent to the federal Health Ministry asking the same question. Without specifying where testing is available, the ministry’s epidemiology department said that anyone with symptoms such as fever, headache and a sore throat should go to their closest healthcare center or hospital.

It didn’t say whether that advice applied to both people who have traveled outside Mexico and those who have stayed at home.

Finding reliable information about where Covid-19 testing is available is difficult as the government has not listed certified hospitals and clinics online.

However, according to a report by the news website Infobae, the following are certified to carry out Covid-19 testing in Mexico City:

  • The National Institute of Respiratory Illnesses
  • The National Institute of Nutrition
  • The 20 de Noviembre National Medical Center
  • The IMSS La Raza Speciality Hospital
  • The National Pediatric Institute
  • The Federico Gómez Children’s Hospital

Meanwhile, President López Obrador said he will continue to salute citizens with hugs and kisses despite the advice of his deputy health minister. “There are people who say that because of coronavirus you shouldn’t hug,” he told reporters at the conclusion of Thursday morning’s press conference.

“But you have to hug; don’t worry about it.”

On February 28, López-Gatell suggested to the president it was better not to give hugs and kisses to citizens because of the risk of contagion. And health authorities in other countries are urging “social distancing” for the same reason.

Later yesterday, López Obrador arrive by plane in Hermosillo, Sonora, where he freely gave out hugs to other passengers and citizens who were awaiting his arrival.

Source: El Financiero (sp), Infobae (sp) Milenio (sp) 

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