Tuesday, June 18, 2024

COVID-19 cases show slight increase, but no cause for alarm

The Health Ministry has ruled out recommending a return to mass mask-wearing, following a statement by the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) regarding an increase in COVID-19 cases.

At President López Obrador’s Tuesday morning press conference, Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell assured the public that the COVID-19 situation in Mexico is “calm,” with only 19 patients currently hospitalized with the virus across the entire country.

The National Autonomous University's main campus in Mexico City.
López-Gatell was responding to calls by the National Autonomous University to return to the use of face masks. He cited the fact that the university was using the government’s own figures, which authorities do not regard as alarming. (UNAM)

“There is no alert situation. [The increase] is part of the variability that endemic circulation of the virus can have,” he said, adding that increases have also been seen in other countries, including the United States.

On Monday, UNAM released a statement warning of a rise in the number of positive COVID-19 tests in recent weeks, “which reveals that the virus is circulating widely at the community level in much of the country.”

Although it stressed that the numbers of hospitalizations and deaths remain stable, the university advised its students to take precautions to limit the virus’ spread. These included wearing masks when spending more than 30 minutes with other people in an enclosed space and isolating if experiencing symptoms.

“It is important not to exaggerate the concern about something that the university presents very clearly and objectively,” López-Gatell said. “The statement’s main focus is the protection of the university community ahead of the coming start of the semester.”

Shoppers and vendors wearing face masks at a market in Mexico City
Shoppers and vendors wearing face masks at a market in Mexico City in August 2020. UNAM has called for the return of masks for those with symptoms of COVID-19 to prevent numbers from increasing further, although their use is not currently required. (depositphotos)

He pointed out that UNAM’s warning of rising COVID-19 cases is based on the Health Ministry’s own figures, which in recent weeks has reached just under 360,000 cases nationwide, but without an increase in severe cases that would necessitate a return to mass mask-wearing.

“There is no problem with using [a mask], but we are not recommending mass, intensive use at this time because we must take into account that the winter season is coming and that people’s tolerance and fatigue could lead them to stop using [masks] just when it’s most necessary,” López-Gatell said.

The Health Ministry is preparing a vaccination booster program to protect the most vulnerable, such as the elderly and the chronically ill, from the expected increase in cases over the winter, he added, explaining that most of those currently hospitalized for COVID-19 in Mexico have not completed the recommended vaccination program.

López-Gatell also noted that hospital occupancy is less than 2% across all areas of the National Health System and that intensive care occupancy is at 0.5%.

With reports from Sin Embargo and La Jornada

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