Mexico has the money to buy as many coronavirus test kits as are needed, Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell said on Thursday as the country recorded its biggest single-day increase to its Covid-19 case tally.
The official’s assurance came in response to a question at Thursday night’s coronavirus press briefing about why Mexico has performed so few Covid-19 tests.
“Was it a matter of budget or was it a technical decision?” a reporter asked López-Gatell.
The latter, he responded, explaining that “the tests have an objective and the objective is epidemiological surveillance.”
López-Gatell said that 100% of people who have coronavirus-like symptoms that are serious enough to warrant hospitalization are tested.
“What is the limit to the tests? As many cases as there are in this condition. Do we lack tests? The answer is no. We have money for tests, we have tests, more are coming … 300,000 will arrive on the weekend and if we need 600,000 more, we’ll buy 600,000 more,” he said.
The deputy minister’s remarks came as an increasing number of experts are calling for testing to be ramped up as Mexico takes steps to begin reopening the economy from June 1.
But López-Gatell gave no indication that the government intends to test more widely, which many experts say is essential in order to detect mild or asymptomatic cases of Covid-19 and limit new outbreaks of the disease.
Earlier in the press conference, Health Ministry Director of Epidemiology José Luis Alomía said that 155,932 people have now been tested for Covid-19, a figure that equates to about 1,200 tests per 1 million inhabitants. The rate is very low compared to many other countries, meaning that large numbers of Covid-19 cases are not included in the government’s official statistics.
The Health Ministry last month presented estimates of case numbers based on the sentinel epidemiological surveillance system, which indicated that there were about eight undetected Covid-19 cases for each confirmed one. But López-Gatell said last week that the system is no longer the principal means of measuring the pandemic because it was no longer practical, given the higher rapidity with which new cases are occurring.
Mexico has now recorded 42,595 confirmed coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic after adding 2,409 new cases on Thursday, a 20% increase over the previous single-day high of 1,997 cases recorded two days earlier.
Of the confirmed cases, 10,057 are considered active, Alomía said. Mexico City has the highest number of active cases followed by México state, Tabasco, Veracruz and Baja California. There are also 26,746 suspected coronavirus cases across the country.
Alomía also reported 257 additional coronavirus-related fatalities, lifting Mexico’s death toll to 4,477. Based on confirmed cases and deaths, the fatality rate is 10.5 per 100 cases, more than 50% higher than the global rate of 6.8.
Mexico City has now recorded more than 1,100 confirmed coronavirus cases, although some media reports have claimed that the real figure is much higher. Baja California has the second highest death toll in the country, with 495 fatalities as of Thursday, followed by México state and Tabasco, where 433 and 263 people, respectively, have lost their lives to Covid-19.
In addition to the confirmed Covid-19 deaths, 420 fatalities are suspected to have been caused by the disease, Alomía said.
Data presented at last night’s press conference shows that 35% of hospital beds in Mexico set aside for Covid-19 patients requiring general care are currently occupied, while 29% of those with ventilators are in use.
However, occupancy levels in Mexico City hospitals are much higher: 73% of general care beds and 58% of those with ventilators are currently in use.
Mexico’s ventilator stocks were given a boost on Thursday with the arrival of 2,000 of the life-saving machines on a flight from Chicago, United States.
Foreign Affairs Minister Marcelo Ebrard described the new Philips ventilators as “a grand treasure,” explaining that “it’s very difficult to purchase 2,000 ventilators in the world today.”
“It’s very significant that they have arrived today, because right now is when they will be given the most use,” he said.
In a Twitter post, Ebrard thanked several companies that contributed funds to buy the ventilators.
“Thanks to the Alberto Bailleres foundation, Grupo México, IEnova, Iusa, Bimbo, Televisa [and] Mastercard for your contribution [to purchase] 2,000 ventilators. … Very good news for everyone!!”
Source: El Universal (sp)