Amid return to normality, Mexico’s COVID-19 death toll surpasses 20,000

Mexico City, June 19 (efe-epa).- Mexico surpassed 20,000 COVID-19 deaths and 170,000 confirmed cases after 5,030 new infections and 647 deaths were reported on Friday, the 19th day of its so-called “new normal” and with one of the lowest testing rates in the world.

Mexico’s health authorities confirmed that 20,394 deaths due to COVID-19 and 170,485 infections had been recorded since the epidemic broke out in the country late February.

It took 75 days for Mexico to surpass 10,000 COVID-19 deaths, which stood at 10,167 on June 1, the same day that the government’s economic recovery plan, known as the “new normal” began.

But it took only three weeks for the deaths to exceed 20,000, standing at 20,394 on Friday, with 170,485 confirmed cases.

The cases multiplied 1.8 times from June 1 as they went from 93,435 on that day to 170,485 on Friday. The country’s first case was confirmed on Feb. 28 and the first death was reported on Mar. 18.

“Unfortunately 20,394 have lost their lives as a result of the complications we know this disease causes and, above all, that affect risk groups and vulnerable people,” Jose Luis Alomia, general director of epidemiology of Mexico said.

When Mexico began reopening its economy earlier this month, the epidemic “was not under control anywhere,” Eduardo Ramirez, co-founder of the COVID-19 Data Observatory of Mexico, told EFE.

Ramirez and other data scientists at the observatory calculated the reproduction rate of the virus, known as the R-number, which is above 1 throughout Mexico, meaning that the virus “will spread rapidly.”

“One would probably see a resurgence of the outbreak. This has been seen in the United States, in states that opened their economy too soon without implementing control measures,” he explained with regard to the latest estimate.

According to the expert, Mexico could reopen its economy but with safety measures including the widespread use of masks and contact tracing.

But, he pointed out, that Mexico has the lowest rates of testing among the members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

“That’s work, that’s testing people — it’s a lot of investment and I think that’s the problem we’ve had here, the federal government has been very careful spending money on this issue,” he said.

The existing numbers are a result of the “late” and “confused” actions taken by the Mexican government, according to public health expert, Carolina Gomez, a member of the Mexican Society of Public Health.

“The late actions of this government are very clear. They had not acquired protective equipment for medical and nursing personnel, so much so that almost 10 percent of those infected are people who are linked to or working in the health sector,” she said.

The “new normal” strategy, which involves reviving the economy based on a four-color traffic light model that indicates the activities allowed by state, has been uncoordinated and “very abrupt,” she added.

The public health expert also bemoaned the signals sent out by the president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who has resumed his tours of the country without using masks and has urged people to “lose their fear of going out.”

“I feel (the signals) are very inappropriate, an excess of confidence shown to the most vulnerable, the ones who follow and respect him,” Gomez said.

Deaths in the last 24 hours increased 2 percent from 19,747 to 20,394 in the technical report presented by Alomia on Friday. Test results of another 1,891 suspected fatalities are awaited.

Confirmed cases have risen by 5,030 in the last 24 hours, 3 percent more than the previous day, for a total of 170,485, of which 23,653 are active cases, having developed symptoms in the last 14 days.

Mexico City with 41,007 cases and the State of Mexico with 26,721 have the highest number of confirmed active cases while Colima (91) and Chihuahua (134) have the lowest figures.

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