A healthcare worker wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) takes a swab sample from a man to be tested for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in Mexico City, Mexico.(Reuters)
A healthcare worker wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) takes a swab sample from a man to be tested for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in Mexico City, Mexico.(Reuters)

Mexico reaches 1 million coronavirus cases, nears 100,000 deaths

How did Mexico get here? By marching resolutely, even defiantly, against many internationally accepted practices in pandemic management, from face mask wearing, to lockdowns, testing and contact tracing.
By Associated Press | Posted by Mallika Soni | Associated Press
PUBLISHED ON NOV 15, 2020 09:13 AM IST

Mexico on Saturday topped 1 million registered coronavirus cases and nearly 100,000 test-confirmed deaths, though officials agree the number is probably much higher.

What is more, officials in Mexico claim science is on their side. Assistant Health Secretary Hugo López-Gatell says any wider testing would be “a waste of time, effort and money.” Face masks, López-Gatell says, “are an auxiliary measure to prevent spreading the virus. They do not protect us, but they are useful for protecting other people.”

President Andres Manuel López Obrador almost never wears a mask, and López-Gatell only occasionally does. Except science does not appear to be on their side. International experts have recommended mass testing, and say face masks protect both the wearer and other people.

“They say there is no evidence. No, excuse me, there is evidence,” said former health secretary Dr. José Narro. “In May, we already began to have empirical evidence and well-documented scientific studies began to appear stressing the importance of face masks and the need for testing.”

“What I can say is the (government) strategy did not have the necessary flexibility to adjust to the increasing amount of knowledge” about the disease, Narro said. In part that has been a hallmark of López Obrador’s administration: never back down, never change course, and if challenged, double down. His main promise to Mexicans is that there would be enough hospital beds for everyone who needs one, and his government has largely fulfilled that basic promise — even if Mexicans are so afraid of those hospitals they often wait until the last moment to go for treatment, at which point, doctors say, it’s often too late. That fear was not unfounded; early in the pandemic, three-quarters of patients intubated and put on ventilators in Mexico’s largest hospital network died.

Read more | Clashes erupt between protest groups as thousands rally for Trump, police step in

That resistance was what Mexico City human resources manager Lorena Salas felt when her 76-year-old father, Jaime Salas Osuna, began to show signs of what could be Covid-19.

“The idea was mainly to stay at home, no? Thinking of going to the hospital was not an option, we were terrified that there he would surely be infected,” said Salas. Instead, she sped down to the resort city of Acapulco, where her father lived, and when she arrived, she found him thin, sweating and confused.

“At that moment the delivery service arrived with the oxygen meter, and his oxygen saturation was 77,” she recalled. (A normal reading is 93 to 98). “At that moment I felt like a bucket of cold water had fallen on me. We just looked at each other. I said ‘Dad, do you have Covid?”

Salas drove him to Mexico City; he didn’t want to be intubated, but doctors explained they had to. He underwent two operations, two intubations and struggled for 13 days before he died on October 20. To its credit, that is one of the few areas where the government’s public message has changed: where officials once urged people with the disease to stay home as long as possible, they now advise those over 60 or with risk factors like diabetes or obesity to seek treatment immediately.

But on most other points, the insistence that the rest of the world is wrong and Mexico’s approach is right appears to have taken a toll in lives. Late Saturday, Mexican Director General of Health Promotion Ricardo Cortés Alcalá announced that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases had reached 1,003,253, with at least 98,259 deaths from Covid-19. Since the pandemic began, Mexico has managed to administer only about 2.5 million tests to its citizens; only seriously ill people get tested in Mexico. Testing only 1.9% of the population since the pandemic began has made it hard, if not impossible, to effectively trace contacts, catch outbreaks early or identify asymptomatic cases.

Even in Mexico City, one of the few places that has paid lip-service to trying to identify cases before they get to a hospital, the efforts have been incredibly weak. To be fair, few countries have managed to do contact tracing well; Mexico, with fewer financial resources and where half the population is poor, self-employed or working off the books, there was little chance of strict control or surveillance.

Mexico City has tried an alternative approach, which is to identify neighborhoods where clusters of cases have occurred, and give them special attention. Lurid yellow warning posters reading “Caution! You are entering an area of high infection” now dot the city. Special kiosks are set up in such neighborhoods to provide some tests, and a few health workers have gone door-to-door looking for cases. But that is rare. For doctors on the front lines, the official response has been at times frustrating.

Dr. Arturo Galindo, head of the infectious disease program at the National Medical Sciences and Nutrition Institute, one of Mexico’s leading public hospitals, has seen his intensive care unit fill up to 100% capacity in recent weeks as Mexicans relaxed and began holding more get-togethers. The hospital is now sending critical Covid-19 cases to other treatment centers.

“I have had arguments on the street when I say “hey, put your face mask on,” and people argue with me, citing the argument ‘well, the president doesn’t,’ and that is their only argument,” Galindo said. “It wouldn’t be bad if he (López Obrador) set an example.”

Speaking for himself, not his hospital, Galindo also voices support for more testing, and senses there are signs of a new-found willingness to consider the idea — not the least because of the advent of rapid, cheap new antigen tests. But while he says some things are improving — people are now getting to hospitals sooner, thus improving their chances — some recent developments make him worry.

Read more | ‘No more bullying’: Fresh start to US-Mexico relations eyed under Biden

Except for a few states, nobody in Mexico has even attempted to enforce a lockdown, or mask-wearing. The closest thing most local authorities have done has been to force some workplaces to shut down, and fine or close businesses that allow too many customers inside at once. Beyond that — travel, mask wearing, parties, weddings — there is very little enforcement. And as the pandemic stretched into its tenth month, people began to let their guard down.

That has led to super-spreader events like an October 3 wedding of a soap opera actor and the daughter of a local businessman in the northern border city of Mexicali. Authorities in Mexico say more than 100 people are believed to have been infected by the coronavirus at the wedding, which about 300 people attended.

There have been instances of outright rebellion. On October 25, a couple of hundred young people gathered for an illegal concert in an empty lot on the outskirts of the city of Toluca, just west of Mexico City. On videos of the event, the lead singer of one band can be heard telling asking the crowd, “Honestly, who doesn’t give a damn about the pandemic? Whoever doesn’t give a damn about coronavirus, raise your beer!” Dozens raised their cups.

Salas, whose father died and who herself was infected, said people have to abandon conspiracy theories and the strange belief it won’t happen to them.

“I see a lot of apathy, a lot of people being irresponsible, not giving a damn or not believing the disease is real. People still think it is something invented by the government.” Salas said. “It is something that people have to realize does exist, it is real.”

Galindo said those on the front lines are shocked when they look at social media. “They have this sense of frustration seeing photos of parties, meetings,” Galindo said. “They have been locked up for six months, fighting, going without sleep or without eating, and then they see that, and it’s shocking.”

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
app
Close
Boris Johnson also signalled the lockdown could last until summer.(REUTERS)
Boris Johnson also signalled the lockdown could last until summer.(REUTERS)

UK considers paying people to stay home amid lockdown breaches

Bloomberg, London
UPDATED ON JAN 22, 2021 04:00 PM IST
The policy, which would cost about 2 billion pounds a month, would be designed to overcome people’s fear of losing income if forced to self-isolate by a positive test, according to a document dated January 19 obtained by the Guardian and confirmed by a person familiar with the matter.
Close
Google has argued that the “baseball arbitration model” incentivises publishers to resort to arbitration rather than good-faith negotiations.(Bloomberg)
Google has argued that the “baseball arbitration model” incentivises publishers to resort to arbitration rather than good-faith negotiations.(Bloomberg)

Explained: Why has Google threatened to pull its search engine from Australia

By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Kunal Gaurav
PUBLISHED ON JAN 22, 2021 03:39 PM IST
Google Australia managing director Mel Silva on Friday warned a Senate committee in Canberra that the mandatory code of conduct proposed by the government was “unworkable”.
Close
Home health care workers and their patients start receiving Moderna COVID-19 vaccines at a drive-thru vaccination clinic in Portland, Ore., Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021. The clinic is a partnership between the Service Employees International Union and Oregon Health & Science University, aiming to vaccinate Oregon's 32,000 home health care workers and their patients. (Kristyna Wentz-Graff/Pool Photo via AP)(AP)
Home health care workers and their patients start receiving Moderna COVID-19 vaccines at a drive-thru vaccination clinic in Portland, Ore., Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021. The clinic is a partnership between the Service Employees International Union and Oregon Health & Science University, aiming to vaccinate Oregon's 32,000 home health care workers and their patients. (Kristyna Wentz-Graff/Pool Photo via AP)(AP)

Moderna lags in WHO vaccine drive as chinese shots near approval

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON JAN 22, 2021 03:33 PM IST
In contrast, leading Chinese vaccine makers Sinopharm and Sinovac Biotech Ltd. are further along in the WHO approval process, the document shows, though their shots are not among the nearly 2 billion already procured by Covax.
Close
The Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine has been approved by several countries (REUTERS)
The Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine has been approved by several countries (REUTERS)

Pfizer vaccine safe for elderly despite Norway scare, WHO says

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON JAN 22, 2021 02:57 PM IST
The World Health Organization said it sees no evidence that Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE’s Covid-19 vaccine contributed to the deaths of elderly people and urged that the shot still be used.
Close
Pfizer has reduced the volume of the vaccine it will deliver to European Union countries this week.(AP)
Pfizer has reduced the volume of the vaccine it will deliver to European Union countries this week.(AP)

Poland says it could take legal action over Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine delay

Reuters, Warsaw
PUBLISHED ON JAN 22, 2021 02:44 PM IST
Poland received 176,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, a drop of around 50% from what was expected."I think that such a decision (on legal action) could be made next month if these supplies are not completed in accordance with the manufacturer's declaration," said a government spokesman.
Close
Currently, only some people receiving welfare benefits receive a 500 pound payment if they are told to self-isolate.(AP)
Currently, only some people receiving welfare benefits receive a 500 pound payment if they are told to self-isolate.(AP)

Cash for Covid? UK says no decision on reported plan for positive tests

Reuters, London
PUBLISHED ON JAN 22, 2021 02:28 PM IST
Surveys have indicated that only a small proportion of people with Covid symptoms were coming forward for tests while many others ignored instructions to self-isolate because of the financial impact of quarantining.
Close
Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan.(AFP photo)
Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan.(AFP photo)

China's vaccine maker to offer Pakistan 20 million doses

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON JAN 22, 2021 02:21 PM IST
Pakistan is not among the 51 nations that have started administering shots despite being the fifth most populous country globally, according to data collected by Bloomberg.
Close
A woman wearing a face mask walks past in front of a TV screen showing a news program reporting about North Korea's military parade, at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. North Korea rolled out developmental ballistic missiles designed to be launched from submarines and other military hardware in a parade that punctuated leader Kim Jong Un's defiant calls to expand his nuclear weapons program. The part of letters read "North, new SLBM during a military parade." (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)(AP)
A woman wearing a face mask walks past in front of a TV screen showing a news program reporting about North Korea's military parade, at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. North Korea rolled out developmental ballistic missiles designed to be launched from submarines and other military hardware in a parade that punctuated leader Kim Jong Un's defiant calls to expand his nuclear weapons program. The part of letters read "North, new SLBM during a military parade." (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)(AP)

First-ever treaty to ban nuclear weapons enters into force

PTI, United Nations
PUBLISHED ON JAN 22, 2021 02:21 PM IST
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is now part of international law, culminating a decades-long campaign.
Close
White House press secretary Jen Psaki and Dr Anthony Fauci during a press briefing in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House.(AP)
White House press secretary Jen Psaki and Dr Anthony Fauci during a press briefing in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House.(AP)

'Liberating feeling': Dr Fauci compares working under Trump, Biden admin

AP
PUBLISHED ON JAN 22, 2021 02:10 PM IST
While choosing his words carefully, Fauci acknowledged that it had been difficult at times to work for Trump, who repeatedly played down the severity of the pandemic.
Close
Police officers wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) stand guard near the Zhaotong Road neighborhood, placed under lockdown due to Covid-19 cases, in Shanghai, China, on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. Residents of an area of�Shanghai�have been banned from leaving the city after six Covid cases were found in the finance hub, the first cases there in almost two months. Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg(Bloomberg)
Police officers wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) stand guard near the Zhaotong Road neighborhood, placed under lockdown due to Covid-19 cases, in Shanghai, China, on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. Residents of an area of�Shanghai�have been banned from leaving the city after six Covid cases were found in the finance hub, the first cases there in almost two months. Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg(Bloomberg)

China finds coronavirus cluster in major chicken processing plant

Reuters, Beijing
PUBLISHED ON JAN 22, 2021 01:48 PM IST
Meatpacking workers in the United States, Brazil and across Europe were among the groups hit hardest by Covid-19 last year.
Close
Doctors say complacency from all sides, officials and the public has led to the new outbreak.(REUTERS)
Doctors say complacency from all sides, officials and the public has led to the new outbreak.(REUTERS)

Sri Lanka approves vaccine amid warnings of virus spread

AP
PUBLISHED ON JAN 22, 2021 01:44 PM IST
  • In over three months since, Sri Lanka has reported more than 52,000 new patients and 260 deaths. Between 500 to 900 new cases are being reported daily.
Close
Former US President Donald Trump(Reuters)
Former US President Donald Trump(Reuters)

Trump's 'Diet Coke button' seems to have left Oval Office when he did

ANI
PUBLISHED ON JAN 22, 2021 01:38 PM IST
It appears that US President Joe Biden has removed the button installed on the presidential desk by his predecessor Donald Trump, who was devoted to the soda drink.
Close
Navalny has accused Putin of ordering his poisoning. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied the accusation.(Reuters file photo)
Navalny has accused Putin of ordering his poisoning. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied the accusation.(Reuters file photo)

EXPLAINER: Why Alexei Navalny is a thorn in the Kremlin's side

AP, Moscow
PUBLISHED ON JAN 22, 2021 01:21 PM IST
Navalny vowed to return to Russia and continue his work, while authorities threatened him with arrest.
Close
Pfizer has said it will ship based on numbers of doses, not vials, which would mean fewer vials of vaccine being shipped to supply the same number of doses.(Reuters)
Pfizer has said it will ship based on numbers of doses, not vials, which would mean fewer vials of vaccine being shipped to supply the same number of doses.(Reuters)

Italy blames Pfizer delays as Covid vaccinations slow to a crawl

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON JAN 22, 2021 01:02 PM IST
Denmark this week also criticized Pfizer for slowing the pace of vaccine deliveries.
Close
The UN logo at the United Nations headquarters in New York. (HT archive)
The UN logo at the United Nations headquarters in New York. (HT archive)

India, Pakistan square off at UN on resolution on protecting religious sites

By HT Correspondent | Edited by Smriti Sinha
UPDATED ON JAN 22, 2021 12:48 PM IST
The Indian side criticising Pakistan for co-sponsoring the move weeks after the demolition of a Hindu temple; the resolution was passed unanimously after Saudi Arabia and Morocco piloted negotiations on a consensus text
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP