Health

Mexico nears 300,000 deaths from COVID-19 as cases surge after holidays

Infections
have more than doubled to 20,000 during the last week when many US tourists
visited Mexico. Eleven of Mexico’s 32 states decided not to resume in-person
school classes this week with cases climbing fast.

The arrival
of the highly contagious omicron variant reversed a downturn in infections
during the autumn, when the widespread application of vaccines provided relief.

Some
Mexicans said people had dropped their guard as the holidays came.

“Since
December, a lot of people started to go out and there are many who no longer
wear face masks,” said Isauro Perez, a 53-year-old taxi driver in Mexico
City. “If we don’t take care of ourselves, the government won’t take care
of us.”

As of
Wednesday, Mexico had registered 299,805 confirmed deaths from COVID-19, a
figure that is likely significantly below the real toll, officials say.

Separate
government data showed there had been nearly 452,000 deaths “linked
to” COVID-19 by mid-December, and lower testing has likely helped to
understate the reach of the virus.

Mexico has
the highest fatality rate – deaths per confirmed cases – among the 20 nations
most affected by COVID-19 worldwide, according to an analysis by Johns Hopkins
University. Laurie Ximenez-Fyvie, an expert on molecular genetics at the
National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), said in the end, Mexico’s
death toll would be the ultimate yardstick of how the government had performed
in the pandemic.

So far, she
argued, it risked suffering “absolute failure.”

According to
figures from Our World in Data, a research group at Oxford University, in the
week ending Jan 1, Mexico was conducting just 0.12 coronavirus daily tests for
every 1,000 inhabitants – down from a peak of 0.38 per day in mid-August.

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Britain, by
contrast, was doing 20.6 tests a day per 1,000 inhabitants as 2021 ended.

While parts
of Europe and the United States have imposed added restrictions with the spread
of Omicron, Mexico has so far resisted and tourists do not require negative
tests to enter the country.

Experts say
the rolling surge of new cases could hit Mexico harder than some countries
since it has a lower vaccination rate than the United States and much of
Europe.

Nationwide,
only 56 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, in comparison to 62
percent in the United States and 81 percent in Spain.

But Mexicans
have readily taken up vaccines, and 95 percent of adult residents of Mexico
City are fully vaccinated.

However, the
government has not rolled out its vaccination program to people below the age
of 15, despite more children being hospitalised. More than one in four of
Mexico’s population are aged 14 or below, World Bank data show.

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