The Mexico City government has announced that it will aim to double the Covid-19 testing rate in the capital as part of efforts to limit the spread of the disease as restrictions are eased.
Health Minister Oliva López told a press conference Sunday that the current testing rate is 657 per 100,000 inhabitants, meaning that authorities will aim to test just over 1,300 people per 100,000 instead.
As Mexico City has a population of about 9 million people – not including the México state municipalities that are part of the metropolitan area – it will have to test a total of almost 120,000 people to achieve the goal.
López said that authorities will conduct contact tracing operations in an attempt to identify people who came into contact with those who test positive.
For his part, the head of the government’s Digital Agency for Public Innovation said that Mexico City’s testing goal is on a par with the rate in Seoul, South Korea, a country that has won praise for identifying and isolating people with Covid-19.
José Merino said that 114 clinics and hospitals in Mexico City will be equipped to perform tests.
The announcement that testing will be ramped up in the capital came just days after Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell said that the federal government wasn’t interested in testing Mexicans en masse for Covid-19 because doing so would be “useless, impracticable and very expensive.”
He said on Sunday night that just under 275,000 people have been tested, a figure that equates to a nationwide rate of about 215 tests per 100,000 inhabitants, three times lower than the rate in Mexico City.
Mexico’s testing rate is dwarfed by those in scores of other countries including several in Latin America such as Chile and Peru.
As a result, the real number of Covid-19 cases is believed to be much higher than the 90,664 cases reported by health authorities on Sunday night.
Just over 25,000 of the confirmed cases were detected in Mexico City and 2,658 people have officially lost their lives to coronavirus in the capital, although the real death toll is believed to be much higher.
The federal government set the infection risk level in Mexico City at the “red light” or maximum level for this week but local authorities have nevertheless allowed some businesses to resume operations and parks will partially reopen on Tuesday.