Deputy Health Secretary Hugo López-Gatell said Tuesday that the epidemiological curve of the Covid-19 virus has entered “stage two,” meaning that person-to-person, or “community” cases in Mexico are now starting to be identified, as well as “imported” ones.
As of March 23, Mexico had 367 confirmed cases and four deaths. However, as few as five cases of community infection have been reported, he said at a press conference Tuesday morning, suggesting there is still sufficient time to control the speed of the outbreak in Mexico. The male-female breakdown of infections is 63 to 37 percent and the average age of patients is 39.
The figures may be providing a false impression of the real picture, many experts say. Testing is still limited, and there is no credible data on exactly how many people may be carrying the virus without realizing it.
López-Gatell said recent directives on social distancing, banning large gatherings and closing schools and universities will help slow down the spread of the disease. He also asked businesses to come up with work plans to curtail the mass movement of people. However, the minister did not list any specific suggestions how this might happen, or say if sanctions would be enforced if businesses did not comply.
Many businesses have already introduced plans to safeguard the health of their workers, such as working from home, or changing the hours of employees so they can care for children out of school.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he would sign a decree allowing elderly citizens who are working to stay at home and still receive their salaries and benefits.
The president said he trusted the “solidarity” of the Mexican people, and had received backing from many business leaders, including billionaire Carlos Slim, who assured him that they will not be firing employees during this critical time for the economy.
Criticism that the Mexican government is being too slow to react to the crisis prompted many municipalities and states – including Mexico City, the Estado de Mexico and Jalisco – to go further, either recommending or implementing robust measures such as closing bars, gyms, parks, churches and theaters, and restricting movement to just necessary tasks.
Lopez Obrador said it was crucial at this time for families to look after the elderly and those most vulnerable to becoming infected by Covid-19.
He also recommended that Mexicans switch to a healthier diet, and refrain or cut back on drinking and smoking.