Mexico prepares for a long epidemic

At a Metro station in Mexico City | Photo: María Fernanda Ruiz

The Mexican government seeks to extend the contagious stage of the coronavirus so that the health structure can withstand the most critical moment of the disease; the total closure of activities, the undersecretary of Health assures, would affect above all the poorest population. We enter phase 2 of the pandemic

By: Arturo Contreras Camero de Pie de Página

24 days after the first case of COVID-19 was detected in Mexico, the Government’s efforts are focused on one objective: lengthening the contagion curve. This morning they announced Mexico’s entry into phase two of the pandemic.

The strategy is that, in doing so, less people get sick at the same time, which will allow the health system to not collapse, as has already happened in other countries, like Italy, where as of yesterday deaths reached 5,476, out of a total of 59,138 cases.

“If we succeed in delaying transmission, we’re going to have a long epidemic,” Undersecretary of Health Prevention Hugo López Gatell assured Monday night.

“That’s not very pleasant, but it is compensated for by the fact that we’ll have fewer cases at the same time.”

According to the undersecretary, although there will be a time when COVID-19 cases will grow very rapidly, the government’s plan is to stop the accelerated escalation of the disease so that the health system does not collapse, as has happened in other countries.

It’s not the same for the care that is required to have thousands of urgent care cases in one day than over several weeks. That’s why the social distancing and community mitigation measures implemented throughout the past week were put into effect.

Buy it is precisely about advance action, the undersecretary explained, during the evening press conference in which he reports everyday about the progress of the disease.

“Since March 14, we preferred to anticipate the circumstances starting with phase two measures, just two weeks before the moment in which we expect to start seeing a rapid growth in the number of daily cases,” he said.

Phase Two

 This Monday, in the daily report the World Health Organization issues, Mexico now appeared on its lists as a country where there is “community transmission,” which according to its criteria would imply that the country is already in phase two of the contingency.

Lopez Gatell colored those interpretations: As of one o’clock in the afternoon there were 367 confirmed cases of the disease and four deaths; 1 percent of infections correspond to cases in which the source of the disease cannot be identified.

That “is a very early sign, but characteristic of the transition to phase two.” This morning, in the presidential conference, they announced jointly with the medical corps of the Army and the Navy that the phase in Mexico changes not because of the number of infections, but to move forward in taking action.

In other words, despite the existence of these infections that took place in the country, many of them are the product of contagion from a person that “imported” the virus from another country and transmitted it to an acquaintance.

The community contagion phase is when it’s not only impossible to trace the origin of infection of the cases, but also that there will be so many that it would even be useless to do so.

“It’s a gradual process, it doesn’t occur from one moment to the next, it doesn’t occur with one more case, it’s not a situation in which from one day to the next one can now say we have already changed the phase here,” the undersecretary responded to a question about when this change would take place.

Contingency until September

 This Tuesday, during the afternoon [press] conference, López-Gatell assured that the COVID-19mx pandemic could last until September and its peak would be in August.

If the federal government’s containment strategy works, infections would be delayed and would allow it “to administer the risk” and not cause the health system to collapse.

The global panorama

 As of this Monday there were 332, 930 cases of people in the world infected with Coronavirus, and of these, only a proportion, 67 percent, are cases that are estimated to remain active; in other words, cases that have happened in the last 14 days and therefore can still spread the virus, while the rest are already recovered.

Of those people who have become ill, only 11 percent have required hospitalization; the rest are considered “outpatient” because they can be cared for at home.

Of the 11 percent that are hospitalized, seven percent will require intensive care. This is the panorama for which the Government of Mexico has been preparing since the middle of January, when it began to take measures regarding the pandemic.

“Disorder and fear can kill us”

 In Mexico, the social distancing measures that are normally used in phase two of contagion are being applied now. That’s why, despite the fact that there are only a few Coronavirus cases with respect to the total population, many people already left the streets to seclude themselves and face the pandemic at home.

But the idea is that this kind of measure would last as little time as possible, since the socio-economic damages can be terrible, according to what the United Nations Organization has warned. López Gatell clarified that by defending the Mexican government’s decision to neither close the borders nor completely stop productive activities: “We have to think about the economic consequences of the measures on the 50 percent of the population that is the poorest. We can’t shut everything down, whether irrationally or planned, because there is social fear. Disorder and fear is what can kill us.”

[1] As of Monday, March 30, 2020, there are 12 known cases of people infected with the coronavirus: 1 in Palenque; 7 in Tuxtla Gutiérrez; 1 in Tapachula and 3 in San Cristóbal de las Casas.


Originally Published in Spanish by Chiapas Paralelo

Thursday, March 27, 2020

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee


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