Mexico hit by deadliest week of pandemic yet

Mexico City (AFP) –

Advertising

Mexico reeled Thursday from its deadliest week of the pandemic yet with nearly 1,000 deaths officially recorded daily and a health system that was close to reaching a breaking point.

The Latin American country has seen a spike in infections and fatalities following the Christmas and New Year holidays when families traditionally gather.

In the seven days to Wednesday, the nation of 128 million recorded 6,930 deaths, including a record 1,314 on Tuesday alone.

"Since late November there was a loss of control of social activity and people began to go out too much in the streets," epidemiologist Malaquias Lopez told AFP.

Mexico has now recorded a total of 1.57 million Covid-19 infections and around 137,000 deaths -- the world's fourth-highest toll.

Authorities say that is partly a reflection of the country's large population but also acknowledge that the real figure is probably much higher due to limited testing.

The health system is overwhelmed in many areas, particularly Mexico City.

Home to nine million people, the capital has recorded 24,105 coronavirus deaths, and 91 percent of hospital beds are full, according to the health ministry.

The city's authorities announced on Thursday a home care plan that they said was for patients who do not need hospitalization, including a supply of oxygen and monitoring by specialists.

But the program also reflects a grim reality.

"In some areas many have no chance of receiving medical attention. This will even mean people dying at home," warned Lopez, a former health ministry official.

Since December 18, Mexico City has banned non-essential activities in an attempt to curb infections.

The country began mass immunization on December 24 using the coronavirus vaccine developed by US drugs giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, but it is constrained by limited supply.

As of Wednesday, 234,888 health workers -- 0.18 percent of the population -- had received the first of two doses.

The government says that deaths could drop by up to 80 percent after people over the age of 60 are immunized by April.

But optimism over the vaccine also brings a risk that people forget about the dangers, Lopez said.

"The truth is that vaccination is going to take a long time. There won't be a significant impact for a long time and by then many will already be dead," he warned.