Mexico’s coronavirus death surge puts its policy of limited testing under the microscope

Mexico went into the coronavirus outbreak insisting it might beat the pandemic with out mass testing, however with deaths surging because it prepares to exit lockdown, the technique appears more and more untenable.

Mexico’s coronavirus czar, Deputy Well being Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell, has doggedly eschewed widespread testing for brand spanking new instances in favor of a lighter regime primarily based on a mannequin drawn up over a decade in the past, arguing it made extra environment friendly use of medical assets.

But as deaths and instances mount, Lopez-Gatell has repeatedly backpedaled on when the pandemic would peak, prompting opposition-run states to check extra to see how extensively the virus has unfold.

Authorities allies are additionally breaking ranks, and even President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who has confronted criticism for downplaying the severity of the pandemic, has hinted he backs a broader strategy to testing.

“How are you going to finish a lockdown once you don’t have clear knowledge, and the variety of useless continues to rise?,” Lorena Villavicencio, a federal congresswoman for the ruling Nationwide Regeneration Motion (MORENA), informed Reuters.

MORENA Senate chief Ricardo Monreal has been amongst these calling for extra exams.

In addition to enjoying down the necessity for mass testing, the federal government was gradual to decentralize diagnostics, medical doctors say. Now that extra personal medical facilities run exams, hundreds of latest instances are rising, and never all seem in federal numbers.

With an official tally of over 17,500 fatalities, Mexico has the seventh-highest coronavirus loss of life toll on this planet. However it additionally has one of many lowest charges of testing, based on Our World in Information, a analysis group at Oxford College.

Two days after a phased exit from lockdown started on June 1, Mexico logged its highest each day loss of life toll, greater than doubling the earlier report to almost 1,100.

The subsequent morning, Lopez Obrador pointedly reminded the general public the federal government’s technique was the work of Lopez-Gatell and Well being Minister Jorge Alcocer.

“All of the administration of the method to sort out the pandemic was of their fingers,” he mentioned. “They’re those who’ve drawn up all of the steps. We’ve moved in accordance with their suggestions.”

The president additionally mentioned he was open to extra testing.

However he nonetheless defends the federal government’s strategy, noting Mexico has suffered far fewer deaths than america, the place greater than 116,000 individuals have died.


Central to Mexico’s preliminary technique was utilizing a so-called Sentinel mannequin established in 2006 to trace flu-like ailments through a community of 475 medical monitoring stations.

The mannequin, mentioned Lopez-Gatell, allowed Mexico to make projections with partial knowledge like an “opinion ballot.”

However the mannequin was not designed for the brand new virus and the monitoring stations weren’t set as much as present a consultant overview of Mexico, mentioned former well being minister Salomon Chertorivski.

“If you wish to monitor a brand new pandemic in actual time, it merely offers you very restricted data,” he mentioned.

Arguing that exhaustive mapping was unrealistic, Lopez-Gatell has centered on conserving medical amenities for probably the most needy, and inspiring the general public to self-isolate.

That has helped handle hospital saturation, but additionally means some individuals can not get assist till it’s too late, critics say. The federal government denies this.

Daniel Diaz, well being minister of Guanajuato state, mentioned the technique additionally neglected asymptomatic carriers, who made up one in 5 of all instances in his state. A lot of them didn’t take social distancing significantly till they’d been examined, he mentioned.

The WHO continues to be debating how essential asymptomatic carriers are within the pandemic.


Opposition-run states in northern and central Mexico have led the cost towards a extra complete testing scheme, working collectively to share data and collaborating with the personal sector.

With out extra exams, it turns into more durable for authorities to ease journey restrictions, mentioned Sergio Gonzalez, well being minister of Durango, one of many states.

The drive has additionally tapped international assist. Executives at Korean automaker Kia within the northern metropolis of Monterrey, as an illustration, in April put officers in Nuevo Leon state in contact with South Korean medical doctors for coaching on easy methods to take care of coronavirus.

Nuevo Leon later introduced in officers from neighboring Tamaulipas and Coahuila states for the coaching classes.

Federal forms was initially gradual to let personal well being amenities check, mentioned Guillermo Torre, rector of TecSalud, the well being system of the Tecnologico de Monterrey college.

“(Getting) the stamp that lets you do the testing was an actual problem,” he mentioned.

Now, with personal assist, Nuevo Leon and Coahuila alone have performed 40,000 exams and confirmed some 3,000 instances not in federal totals, official registers present.

The federal tally omits some personal check knowledge as a result of it doesn’t separate full-blown instances from asymptomatic carriers, mentioned Jose Luis Alomia, a senior well being ministry official.

Final week, based on the federal authorities’s depend, Mexico was conducting 12,000 exams a day. That’s 3 times the each day variety of exams throughout the first week of Might, when Lopez-Gatell initially forecast the pandemic would peak, however far in need of what critics would really like.

Mexico Metropolis has additionally modified tack to trace instances and isolate asymptomatic carriers, native well being minister Oliva Lopez informed a information convention final week. Over the following month, she desires town ruled by MORENA to do 2,700 exams a day, up from 1,000 now.

Sitting beside her was Lopez-Gatell, who caught to his weapons and mentioned what mattered was not the quantity of exams, however how they have been used.

“There’s no scientific, technical, logical or computerized hyperlink between the variety of exams and success in management,” he mentioned.

That view seemingly jars with the World Well being Group (WHO), which has repeatedly pushed for extra testing.

At a briefing in Geneva on June 6, WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris urged authorities to “check, check, observe, check – discover all people who has probably obtained the virus.”

The federal government has additionally needed to take care of a president whose instincts don’t all the time encourage social distancing or containment.

Initially, Lopez Obrador urged individuals to hug one another and maintain going out. Later, he informed them to remain at residence.

When the pinnacle of Mexico’s Social Safety Institute mentioned on June 7 he had coronavirus, two days after talking at an occasion with the president, Lopez Obrador dismissed the concept that he, too, ought to take a check.

“I’ve already defined,” he informed reporters. “I’m not doing the check as a result of I don’t have signs.”

Reporting by Dave Graham and Diego Ore; Further reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Modifying by Tom Brown

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