New coronavirus cases have begun to trend downwards for the first time since October, Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell said Wednesday.
January was the worst month of the pandemic in terms of new cases with almost 440,000 reported.
But López-Gatell said preliminary data showed that case numbers had declined 20% in epidemiological week 3 of 2021 – January 17 to 23 – compared to the previous week.
He said the reduction had subsequently decreased slightly due to the addition of new cases to the week 3 data but stressed that it had remained at 19% for the past two days.
“For the first time since the upturn [in case numbers] in October, we have a sustained downward trend,” López-Gatell told reporters at the federal government’s morning press conference.
“The reduction, even though it’s coming down, is maintaining … [a similar] size. We started with a 20% reduction and we’ve been at 19% for two days, it’s consistent,” he said.
The deputy minister said there was no guarantee that the downward trend would continue.
(Mexico is currently in week 5 but data for the two most recent weeks is not considered reliable for epidemiological purposes because it may be incomplete and subject to change. It is possible that the 19% reduction in week 3 will fall further in the coming days.)
“Nothing can guarantee that this trend will be maintained, except the conduct of the public,” López-Gatell said. Still, he added, the decline in case numbers between January 17 and 23 is encouraging.
The coronavirus point man also said that the number of active cases across the country is on the wane. The Health Ministry estimates that there are currently 83,529 active cases whereas the figure was recently above 100,000.
López-Gatell highlighted that only 4% of Mexico’s accumulated case tally – 1.87 million as of Tuesday – is made up of cases that are currently active.
He also noted that the national hospital occupancy rate for general care beds has declined for two consecutive days to its current rate of 55%. However, eight states have occupancy rates of 70% or higher and two – Mexico City and México state – have rates above 80%.
The occupancy rate in Mexico City, which has been hit harder by the pandemic than any other state in the country, has declined in recent days to its current level of 84% but Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum warned that the downward trend won’t be maintained unless people continue to follow the health rules.
There are more than 6,700 coronavirus patients in hospitals in the capital, according to Mexico City government data, but Sheinbaum highlighted Tuesday that the number had declined by 350 over the past nine days.
More than a quarter of the hospitalized patients are in serious condition in beds with ventilators.
Mexico City, one of 13 states that are currently maximum risk red on the federal coronavirus stoplight map, has recorded 483,608 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic – 26% of the 1.87 million cases detected across the country.
Its Covid-19 death toll of 29,190 represents 18% of the 159,533 fatalities recorded across Mexico. High numbers of cases and deaths have also been recorded in México state, which includes many municipalities that are part of the greater Mexico City metropolitan area.
Another hard hit state is Nuevo Léon, where almost 8,000 people have lost their lives to Covid-19.
The northern state’s Congress approved a law Monday that makes the use of face masks mandatory in public places while the coronavirus remains a risk. Mask scofflaws could be fined up to 896 pesos (US $44), ordered to complete community work or even jailed for 36 hours.