Wednesday, February 21, 2024

New virus outbreaks may follow lifting of restrictions: deputy minister

There are no guarantees that new outbreaks of Covid-19 won’t occur once restrictions on the economy and people’s movement are lifted, Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell said on Saturday.

“It’s not guaranteed in Mexico nor anywhere else that there won’t be new outbreaks at the time of reopening,” he told reporters at the Saturday night coronavirus press briefing.

“We will have experiences of new outbreaks, that must be made clear. But it’s impossible … for a state of immobility to be maintained for a very long time,” López-Gatell said.

The national social distancing initiative, which officially commenced on March 23, will conclude this Saturday after which it will be up to state governments to determine which restrictions are lifted and which remain in place.

As state authorities ease restrictions, they will be required to constantly monitor the behavior of the epidemic at a local level, López-Gatell said. If large new outbreaks are detected, new restrictions must be placed on people’s movement in the areas where they are found, he added.

López-Gatell called on Mexicans to brace themselves for a long epidemic, pointing out that the peak for some parts of the country might not occur until much later in the year.

“[The peak of] the epidemic curves won’t be seen in some cities until June, July or August and in others, [such as] Guadalajara and Monterrey, it will be in September. It’s anticipated that the epidemic will extend until October when the flu season begins. It’s not guaranteed but it’s probable that with the arrival [of influenza] Covid cases will make a comeback,” he said.

The deputy minister said that scenario would provide a “significant challenge” because hospitals would be required to treat influenza and coronavirus patients at the same time.

He also said that a serological survey will commence in July or August to estimate what percentage of the population has had Covid-19 and consequently developed antibodies against the disease that will potentially make them immune.

“With respect to immunity, I would say there is hope but the scientific evidence is not very consistent. There is hope … that there could be a protective immune response [in people who have had Covid-19] but there is still a lack of evidence in the world to confirm it.”

Mexico has recorded 68,620 confirmed cases of Covid-19 as of Saturday, a figure that equates to about 0.05% of the population, or roughly one case for every 2,000 people.

However, federal health authorities have estimated that the real size of the pandemic is eight to nine times larger than that indicated by the official case numbers.

Source: El Universal (sp)

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