Mexican gov’t downplays Covid-19 3rd wave despite strain on hospitals

By Eduard Ribas i Admetlla

Mexico City, Jul 30 (EFE).- A third Covid-19 wave in Mexico already is putting hospitals under severe strain, some of which are facing bed-occupancy rates of nearly 100 percent.

Even so, the government has downplayed the seriousness of the new spike in cases and expressed confidence that progress with the vaccine rollout will keep coronavirus fatalities low.

“We’re suffering from the third wave. The hospitals are full, and no one says anything,” a nurse treating coronavirus patients in Mexico City who spoke on condition of anonymity told Efe.

Mexico registered 19,223 new confirmed cases over the most recent 24-hour period, a figure not seen since the peak of the second wave in January. The country has reported more than 2.8 million coronavirus cases and attributed nearly 240,000 deaths (the fourth-highest total worldwide) to Covid-19 since the onset of the pandemic.

The latest surge in cases began in May in tourist areas and has gradually spread nationwide, causing hospitals to fill up once again with seriously ill patients who arrive by ambulance.

“We’ve stopped admitting (patients) to the hospital because we don’t have a single bed anymore,” the nurse added.

Only 14 percent of general-use beds and 17 percent of intensive-care-unit beds were occupied just a month ago, but the national averages currently stand at 44 percent and 38 percent, respectively.

Of Mexico’s 32 federal entities, four – Nayarit, Colima, Mexico City and Durango – are on red alert due to hospital bed-occupancy rates of more than 70 percent and nine others are on yellow alert (rates above 50 percent).

Outside Mexico City’s Venados Hospital, Diego Ramirez paces nervously while waiting for permission to do a video call with his wife, 57-year-old Felipa, who was admitted a week ago.

“She already had a very serious case of Covid. She has problems with asthma (and was having difficulty) breathing and a low blood oxygen level. Our situation is a bit complicated,” he told Efe.

Ramirez added that his wife contracted the coronavirus despite taking all the precautions and is in a “very delicate” situation.

Although the Delta variant of the coronavirus is driving the caseload sharply higher, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s administration says no new pandemic restrictions will be imposed and that it has full confidence that high levels of hospitalizations and deaths seen during previous Covid-19 waves will be avoided due to elevated vaccination rates among the elderly.

Health authorities estimate that mortality rates are 77 percent lower than during the first Covid-19 peak in July 2020 and 87 percent lower than during the second peak in January.

The latest numbers lend support to the government’s strategy, since the 381 Covid-19 deaths reported over the most recent 24-hour period are sharply lower than the more than 1,500 daily deaths in January.

“Now there are cases, but – this is very important – fewer deaths because older people are already vaccinated. It’s been shown that (people with) the vaccine are protected,” Lopez Obrador said at a press conference Friday in the western state of Sinaloa.

Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum, also a member of Lopez Obrador’s left-wing Morena party, echoed those sentiments, saying that “shutting down economic activities is no longer an option” and that the key is to speed up the immunization drive.

Only 35 percent of Mexico’s 126 million inhabitants have had at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

Among those who contracted the coronavirus without completing the two-dose series is Claudia Padilla’s sister, who for the past 24 hours has been in very serious condition at Mexico City’s General Hospital of Mexico.

No beds were initially available, while other patients were turned away overnight due to a lack of space.

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