By Pedro Pablo Cortes
Mexico City, Dec 28 (EFE).- Amid the records being set for Covid infections and increasing worldwide restrictions, the Mexican government on Tuesday downplayed the threat posed by the Omicron variant of the coronavirus and boasted about its management of the pandemic, which it said remains “on a downward” trend.
“Often, the participation of the Omicron variant is overestimated. As we’ve been saying since October, it’s indisputable that at some moment in Mexico, as has occurred in other countries, there could be a fourth wave,” said the undersecretary for Health Prevention and Promotion, Hugo Lopez-Gatell, the official tasked with the management of the pandemic.
Although the state governments have confirmed dozens of cases in their jurisdictions, the federal administration has only acknowledged 42 cases of Omicron since the first patient with that strain was detected on Dec. 3.
“The epidemic remains the same. Paying deliberate attention to this element is to distract from the other substantive elements,” Lopez-Gatell said on the matter at the daily press briefing at the National Palace.
Mexico has experienced more than 3.9 million Covid-19 cases and about 300,000 deaths, making it No. 4 in the world in these statistics, after a Christmas season with no restrictions.
But President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Tuesday that the country has suffered 2,371 Covid-19 deaths per million residents, putting the country in sixth place in the Americas and 21st on the world level in terms of deaths as percentage of the population.
“In relation to other countries, all of us Mexicans knew how to act with great wisdom, and we take care of ourselves and protect ourselves,” the president said.
Lopez Obrador emphasized that the Mexican capital is one of the world’s cities with the greatest usage of facemasks, despite the fact that he has not set this example himself, and he went on to say that in Mexico the “family is the main institution of social security.”
The Mexican government also has said that it is the No. 7 country in the world in terms of administering vaccine doses in absolute terms with more than 148.5 million doses provided.
But only about 72.7 million people have received the full two-dose regimen, less than 58 percent of the country’s 126 million residents.
“Yes, it’s important that at the end of the year we can say that Mexico is among the countries with the most vaccination in the world, and thus we don’t have so many hospitalizations and have avoided deaths because the vaccination (program) has progressed greatly,” Lopez Obrador said.
As Omicron is causing people to cancel their yearend parties in Europe, US airlines to cancel thousands of flights and Brazil to curtail its holiday celebrations, Lopez-Gatell insisted that the measures Mexico has been employing are “the same” as the ones it used against the Delta variant of the coronavirus, which may be overtaken as the world’s dominant strain by Omicron in the near future, so easily and quickly does the new variant spread.
He said that “it’s a variant that is clearly more transmissible, but which produces less serious illness.”
“We could see a large number of cases, but a much lower proportion of hospitalizations than we’ve had in the previous waves. Why? Mainly due to the effect of vaccination,” he said.
Lopez-Gatell said that this week has begun with a 7 percent weekly reduction in registered infections, meaning that the downward trend in infections since the third wave’s peak in July and August – caused by Delta – is continuing.
He said that just 11 percent of the intensive care unit beds are occupied in Mexico at present, along with 13 percent of the regular hospital beds.
“The trend is still being seen at present in reduction, and also for hospitalizations. The Covid units’ occupancy is continuing to be reduced,” he said.
As a reflection of Mexico’s opening, the government on Tuesday announced that it will allow cruise ships with Covid-infected people on board to dock at the country’s ports despite the increasing restrictions in other countries and the opposition of state governments to this policy because of the many reported outbreaks aboard cruise ships.
“People who are not showing symptoms may go about their tourist activities respecting the basic prevention measures,” said the Tourism Secretariat and the Health Secretariat in a joint statement.