The federal government has declared the start of the most serious phase of the coronavirus pandemic in Mexico as the number of Covid-19 cases continues to grow.
Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell made the phase three declaration at President López Obrador’s regular news conference on Tuesday morning.
“We are in the phase of rapid ascent in which a large number of infections and hospitalizations will accumulate,” he said. “We must continue maintaining the national healthy distance initiative so that these are as low as possible.”
López-Gatell said that there are now more than 1,000 Covid-19 cases in each of the four regions recognized by the General Health Council: western Mexico, the north, central Mexico and the southeast.
“We have more than 4,000 cases in the central region. … We have extended spread [of the virus] in all the regions of the country even though the spread is in patches. We have active outbreaks, we have spread throughout the country, these are the characteristics of the ascent phase,” he said.
The government is predicting that the virus will spread rapidly in the first half of May and that pressure on the health system will be greatest in the second half of next month.
The government’s social distancing initiative, including the suspension of all nonessential activities, is currently scheduled to run through May 30. Specific measures and restrictions applicable to phase three of the pandemic will be published in the government’s official gazette on Tuesday afternoon.
The phase three declaration comes after the Health Ministry reported on Monday that the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases had increased by 511 to 8,772 and that the death toll had risen by 26 to 712.
Among those confirmed to have the disease are 13 infants aged 1 or less and 44 pregnant women.
Of the almost 9,000 confirmed cases since the disease was first detected in Mexico at the end of February, 2,965 cases are currently considered active, López-Gatell said.
Mexico City continues to have the highest number of cases in the country followed by México state and Baja California. At a municipal level, the Mexico City borough of Iztapalapa has the highest number of active cases followed by Culiacán, Sinaloa, and Tijuana, Baja California.
Mexico City also leads the country for coronavirus-related deaths with 188 as of Monday. Baja California is second with 75 followed by México state with 58.
With 45 fatalities attributed to the new coronavirus, Tijuana has recorded the highest number of deaths among the nation’s more than 2,000 municipalities. Gustavo A. Madero in Mexico City and Culiacán follow with 39 and 30 deaths, respectively.
Mexican Social Security Institute director (IMSS) Zoé Robledo said on Monday that he was particularly concerned about the possibility that hospitals in Tijuana, Culiacán, Monclova, and the Valley of México metropolitan area will be overwhelmed with the expected large influx of Covid-19 patients.
He also said that IMSS has hired an additional 9,000 health workers to respond to the most critical phase of the coronavirus pandemic but that it still needs another 9,000.
“Between doctors, general doctors, specialists, nurses …. orderlies, paramedics, we’ve hired about 9,000 people but we still need 9,000 more and we’re still hiring,” Robledo said.
President López Obrador said Sunday that Mexico is ready for the worst of the coronavirus pandemic and that no patient that needs a ventilator will go without one.
However, at least eight hospitals in Mexico City are already at least 80% full weeks before the number of coronavirus patients requiring care is predicted to peak.