Lopez Obrador’s Covid infection comes amid Omicron wave in Mexico

By Juan Carlos Espinosa

Mexico City, Jan 11 (EFE).- Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s recent Covid-19 infection comes amid the massive coronavirus wave that is besetting the country where almost 300,000 people have died and four million have become infected since the pandemic began in early 2020.

As a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, Mexico is harvesting what it sowed before the Christmas holidays, when authorities decided not to impose any kind of gathering or travel restrictions on the public.

“There is controversy about whether we’ll gather or not due to this new (Omicron) variant, which we’re treating with caution, but certainly we’ll get together with our loved ones, whom it is very important to see. It’s something very beautiful to get together,” said the president on Dec. 22.

Omicron, which health authorities acknowledge is becoming the most widespread strain of the virus, has proven to be highly transmissible since it burst onto the scene in recent weeks.

The visible consequences have been the exponential rise in the number of newly detected daily infections – and on Monday there were more than 11,000 new cases – and the long lines to get Covid tests at both public and private health facilities.

In response to the enormous number of request for Covid tests, Hugo Lopez-Gatell, the deputy secretary for Health Prevention and Promotion and the official tasked with dealing with the pandemic, on Tuesday asked anyone who has been in contact with positive cases but does not have symptoms not to get tested.

His recommendation does not contradict what institutions such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are saying.

Last Saturday, Mexico broke its own record for daily infections with 30,671, surpassing the previous record of 28,953 set on Aug. 18, 2021.

In addition, last Friday Mexico hit the dire milestone of 300,000 Covid deaths – according to the official tally – a figure that puts the country in the No. 5 spot in absolute numbers of deaths from the virus.

Lopez Obrador has limited his message to minimizing the effect of the new variant, which has been seen not to be as virulent as past strains, and emphasizing the effectiveness of getting vaccinated.

“The Omicron infection is more similar to a common cold, or flu. Fortunately, I’m saying that there is less probability of it affecting the lungs,” Lopez-Gatell said.

Alejandro Macias, who was tasked with dealing with the AH1N1 flu pandemic in 2009, does not agree with the government’s messaging this time around, saying that although hospitalizations are not increasing – yet anyway – the new wave of Covid must be taken seriously.

“What can be reasonably inferred from what we’re observing is that we’ve passed the worst phase of this pandemic. This doesn’t mean that the virus is going away or that we’re free of problems,” Macias told EFE recently.

People who still have not gotten vaccinated are the main ones being significantly harmed by this new wave of infections, and in cities like Mexico City they occupy up to 70 percent of the hospital beds.

Mexico’s vaccination program continues to move forward but not at the rate that the government would have liked.

The country has about 60 percent of its population fully vaccinated but it has not yet finished inoculating all people under age 60.

According to figures provided by the government on Monday, more than 50 percent of elderly residents have received a third booster shot and a little more than 30 percent of healthcare workers have gotten boosted.

Lopez Obrador is not the only Mexican government official to be suffering from an active case of Covid-19.

Besides the president, Economy Secretary Tatiana Clouthier and Environment Secretary Maria Luisa Albores are currently infected.

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