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Health minister acknowledges third wave of coronavirus is underway in Mexico

Mexico has entered a third wave of the pandemic, the federal government’s coronavirus point man acknowledged on Tuesday.

“We have a situation where there is a spike [in case numbers], the third of the pandemic and second of the year,” Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell told reporters at President López Obador’s morning press conference.

“But fortunately, and for a known reason, which is vaccination, deaths are not increasing at the same speed,” he said.

However, Covid-19 fatalities did increase significantly in June compared to May. The Health Ministry reported 9,479 deaths last month, a 42% spike compared to 6,661 in May. Confirmed case numbers increased 53% in June to 105,527 from 68,987 in May.

An additional 642 deaths and 22,604 cases were reported in the first five days of July for daily averages of 128 fatalities and 4,521 new infections. The accumulated case tally currently stands at 2.54 million, while the official Covid-19 death toll is 233,689.

López-Gatell said that vaccination is preventing severe Covid-19 disease but also acknowledged that hospitalization rates have recently increased. He noted that some states have seen “very significant” increases in case numbers and hospitalizations.

At least one-third of Mexico’s 32 states, including Quintana Roo and Yucatán, have seen an increase since the beginning of June, the news agency Reuters reported, but few new restrictions have been introduced and the federal government last week chose not to make any changes to its coronavirus stoplight map, which shows that the risk of infection is green light low in most of the country.

Baja California Sur, one of just five high risk orange light states, recorded the biggest jump in case numbers in June, with new infections surging 366% to 1,721 from 369 in May.

Many of the new cases recently detected in Mexico were among young people, most of whom have not yet been vaccinated against Covid-19. The highly infectious Delta strain of the virus is now circulating in at least a third of Mexico’s states, but it has not yet become the dominant variant here, as has occurred in some countries.

Some studies have indicated that some vaccines don’t offer robust protection against the Delta strain but López-Gatell said recently that such a finding was “still controversial.”

Laurie Ximénez-Fyvie, a professor of molecular genetics at the National Autonomous University, told Reuters that if the Delta variant does spread widely in Mexico – where less effective Chinese vaccines have been widely used – the nation’s coronavirus situation could deteriorate further.

Coronavirus cases and deaths in Mexico as reported by day.
Coronavirus cases and deaths in Mexico as reported by day. milenio

She said that a new rebound in case numbers was “definitely” underway and warned that the current vaccination rate in Mexico – where about a quarter of the entire population and approximately 40% of adults have received at least one shot – may be insufficient to blunt the third wave.

“If Uruguay and Chile, which have vaccinated around 60% of their population, cannot stop the rebound, why could we with 20%?” Ximénez-Fyvie said.

Both South American countries have relied heavily on Chinese-made vaccines to inoculate their populations.

The SinoVac and CanSino vaccines, which Mexico has used to vaccinate millions of people including large numbers of seniors and teachers, are only 51% and 65% effective, respectively, in preventing the symptomatic disease, whereas studies show the Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Sputnik shots – which have also been used here – have significantly higher efficacy rates. It was recently reported that at least four people in Oaxaca vaccinated with CanSino were seriously ill with Covid-19. The protection the Chinese vaccines offer against the Delta strain is unclear.

More than 47 million vaccine doses have been administered since the national vaccination rollout began on December 24 but tens of millions of Mexicans, mainly young adults, have not yet been inoculated.

However, the government has opened up the vaccination registration process to people aged 18 and above across Mexico – even as some people in their 40s are yet to receive their first shot.

Adults wishing to get a shot can register using their CURP identity number on the government’s vaccination website.

With reports from Milenio and Reuters 

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