Health officials have confirmed the first cases of the coronavirus known as Covid-19 in the country, one in Mexico City and the other in Sinaloa.
Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell told the president’s morning press conference on Friday that the patients have cold-like symptoms and no pre-existing ailments, so they are not high-risk.
The patient in Mexico City is a 35-year-old male who recently traveled to Italy for a conference. He returned to Mexico on February 22 with mild symptoms, and a test sample was taken on Thursday. He and his family are currently under quarantine in the National Institute of Respiratory Diseases (INER).
“The whole family is in isolation in the institute. They do not need to be hospitalized, but they are there according to protocol,” said President López Obrador.
Health authorities are carrying out contact tracing operations on nine people with whom the man interacted upon arriving in Mexico, one showing symptoms and the other eight asymptomatic.
López-Gatell said that the case in Sinaloa was detected in the early morning hours on Friday. The 41-year-old male has been isolated in a hotel in the state, although authorities have not announced in which city.
The man attended the same conference in Bergamo, Italy, as the patient in Mexico City.
Now that the country has its first confirmed cases, President López Obrador announced that his administration will hold nightly press conferences in order to inform the public of the government’s efforts to deal with the virus.
The conferences will be held at 9:00 p.m. and led by López-Gatell.
The president said that they will present technical and scientific information “so that there aren’t distortions, so that the people have information, to guarantee the right to information.”
As for changes to daily life in the bustling capital, López-Gatell said that there is no need for school or work closures, but he recommended that people temporarily take physical contact out of their greetings.
“For the moment let’s not give kisses or hugs,” he said, adding that for now “there is no scientific or technical reason to close schools [and] workplaces.”
He asked people not to panic, and the president assured the public that the situation is not critical.
“We are prepared to confront the coronavirus. We have the doctors, specialists, hospitals and the capacity to deal with this case. We will deal with other cases as they develop,” he said.
Health authorities in Quintana Roo exemplified the president’s attitude of not generating panic when they made the decision to allow the passengers from the MSC Meraviglia to disembark in Cozumel.
The cruise ship docked at the Caribbean port on Thursday morning after being denied access to ports in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands over fears that a crew member with flu-like symptoms could have been carrying the coronavirus.
Mexican health officials boarded the cruise liner on Thursday to examine the man and confirmed that it was not a case of Covid-19, but of the seasonal flu, the same strain that state Health Minister Alejandra Aguirre Crespo assured the public is “a viral infection common in all of Mexico.”
“No cases of the Covid-19 virus have been reported aboard the MSC Meraviglia or any other ship in the MSC Cruises fleet,” the company said in a statement.
After this morning’s announcement of the first two cases, the peso dropped 1.21% and the Mexican Stock Exchange’s benchmark S&P/BMV IPC index was down 3.39%.
The first case of Covid-19 in Latin America was reported in Brazil on Tuesday. The patient is a 61-year-old male who had also recently traveled to Italy.
The most common symptoms of the disease include fever, dry cough, muscle aches and difficulty breathing. Serious cases can lead to pneumonia.
Health experts say that the best way to protect oneself is to wash hands thoroughly and regularly, avoid touching the mouth, nose and eyes, cover the mouth with the inside of the elbow when sneezing and coughing and avoid contact with people with flu-like symptoms.