The pandemic is on the rise in Mexico. The country has registered 20,626 covid cases and 94 deaths in the last 24 hours, according to the latest report from the health authorities. It is an increase of more than 5,000 infections compared to the previous day and almost four times more infected people than those who became ill on Wednesday of last week, amid the largest rebound that has been seen since the end of last August. The president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, asked the population to take extreme precautions, while the cold and the uncertainty due to the advance of omicron have triggered the demand for diagnostic tests in recent days in the capital and the main cities. “The new variant is affecting a lot, but fortunately it is not serious, there are no hospitalizations and, most important of all, there are no deaths,” said the president.
The data of the last days point to the impact of omicron, more contagious than other variants, but with symptoms that are usually milder. The statistics show that the cases have risen every day, but that has not translated into more deaths. The authorities, however, have not given specific information about the hit of the new version of the virus to the country and the cases that have been sequenced on independent platforms are only a very small fraction. Mexico does not know how many cases it really has of the new variant, specialists point out. The high demand in the application of PCR tests in public and private institutions will paint a much more accurate picture, although this will take weeks.
“You have to take better care of yourself,” López Obrador said in a brief comment during his morning press conference. Mexico City and the tourist states of Baja California Sur and Quintana Roo have established themselves as the areas most affected by this latest outbreak. One in four active cases of covid are in the capital, the region that has bet the most on the application of tests and the one that is most densely populated.
Talking about a new wave of infections is still completely outside the government discourse, but some adjustments are already being made in the strategy for managing the pandemic. The Government announced that it will begin this week with the booster vaccination with 2.7 million doses for teachers and opened the registry for people over 40 years of age to receive the call booster. The health authorities had given dropper information about the booster vaccination, which until now has only been applied to those over 60 years of age and health personnel. On Tuesday there was just talk of extending coverage to people between 50 and 59 years old, but it has not explicitly touched those over 40.
The changes caused by omicron are beginning to be seen little by little. Mexico City announced that it was going to double the number of free trials this week to apply up to 23,400 each day. In other parts of the country greater precautions are taken. The City Council of the northern city of Chihuahua, for example, has returned its employees from non-essential areas and ordered them to work from home due to the increase in infections. The National Autonomous University of Mexico has also announced that it will continue with a hybrid model and has ruled out returning to face-to-face classes.
Suspending activities in most of the country, however, is completely ruled out by federal and multi-state authorities. “The strategy can no longer be to close economic activities because it has a lot of impact, nor school activities,” Claudia Sheinbaum, head of government of the capital, said this week. The bet is on vaccination, despite the fact that several specialists criticize that the reinforcements have been slow to arrive and that age groups such as those under 15 have been excluded.
The cases are expected to rise in the next few days, until the end of January and much of February. Several epidemiologists anticipate that it will be a complicated winter due to exposure during the Christmas and New Year holidays; the prevalence of other respiratory diseases; the infections that the delta variant still causes, and the rapid advance of omicron in full escalation of infections. The worldwide expansion of the new variant has resulted in more than 2.2 million cases in the last 24 hours.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.