By Cristina Sanchez Reyes
Mexico City, Jul 16 (EFE).- Young adults are the focal point of concern as a third coronavirus wave sweeps across Mexico, although the government has been largely downplaying the problem due to a drop in overall hospitalizations and seriously ill patients.
The reality of the situation is apparent, however, in the long lines of people – the majority of them individuals in their 20s and early 30s who are not vaccinated and fear becoming infected – that have formed outside free Covid-19 testing centers.
“I came (to do the test) because in the office where I work my direct boss tested positive and I was in contact with him up until Friday,” Alejandro Lopez, a 27-year-old who took the test at a center in Gustavo A. Madero, Mexico City’s northernmost municipality, told Efe.
Ingrid Gutierrez, for her part, felt the need to be tested because she sells products at a crowded market and regularly uses public transportation.
“Just to be sure, and so I can stay at home in case I test positive,” she said, acknowledging that she is afraid “especially because of this third wave and the strains that are appearing.”
Mexico’s government had resisted referring to a “third wave” of the coronavirus for weeks. But on Tuesday it finally openly acknowledged that a new spike in cases had begun four weeks ago.
That outbreak began in tourist states like Quintana Roo, Yucatan and Baja California Sur and then spread to all parts of the country, with the number of cases in the week of June 20-26 (the most recent week studied) rising 29 percent from the previous seven-day period.
Mexico has reported more than 2.6 million coronavirus cases to date, while 235,500 deaths there have been attributed to Covid-19, the fourth-highest total worldwide.
Mexico has administered around 52 million Covid-19 vaccine doses in a successful immunization drive that has reduced the complications and mortality associated with that potentially deadly respiratory illness.
“Although these types of cases do occur, there hasn’t been an increase in hospitalizations. This is the positive outcome of having the population vaccinated,” said Hugo Lopez-Gatell, Mexico’s undersecretary for health prevention and promotion and coronavirus czar.
On July 7, Pan American Health Organization Director Carissa Etienne said the number of coronavirus cases in Mexico was trending upward and warned that young people were playing an active role in transmitting the illness.
For several weeks, Mexican young adults have been seen congregating in large numbers at bars, restaurants and outside mobile eateries, generally without adhering to coronavirus prevention measures or observing social distancing recommendations.
In addition, school graduation parties at beaches and other tourist areas in June turned into coronavirus super-spreader events
Malaquias Lopez, a public health professor at Mexico City’s National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), told Efe that this recent wave of infections among young adults is something that “you could see coming since the Easter holidays.”
Greater mobility and an easing of basic hygiene measures contributed to this new wave, he said, adding that “although these Covid-19 cases aren’t as complicated as in the elderly population, that doesn’t mean there can’t be complications.”
Lopez also cautioned that there will be many more new coronavirus cases, saying they are a cause for concern because the younger population isn’t vaccinated.
According to reports from the Health Secretariat’s epidemiological information department, the number of active coronavirus cases among people aged 20 to 39 accounts for around 40 percent of the total, a proportion that has gradually risen in recent weeks.
Jorge Alfredo Ochoa, Mexico City’s public health services director, said for his part that demand for rapid tests from that segment of the population has increased over the past three weeks from 8,000 to 16,000 per day.
The Mexican government’s plan is to ensure that all people 18 years and older have received at least one dose of a vaccine by October.