Friday, March 20, 2020

De Verdad? ¿Qué sabe México sobre el coronavirus que no conocemos?

slate |  Last weekend, 110,000 people attended the “Vive Latino” music festival in Mexico City, which took place as scheduled despite several confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Mexico’s capital. At the same time, while governments worldwide took drastic measures to slow down the spread of the disease, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known as AMLO, traveled to the south of Mexico and met with adoring crowds, shaking hands and hugging and kissing supporters. During his daily press conferences, AMLO has insisted that his honesty and moral rectitude protect him from the virus and that the threat of COVID-19 is greatly exaggerated. “I have great faith that we will move our dear Mexico forward, that misfortunes and pandemics won’t affect us,” he told reporters at a press conference on Sunday. 

The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Mexico may seem low, but it has grown exponentially over the last week, from eight to 118, and the first death from the disease was reported on Wednesday night. Moreover, Mexico has very limited testing capabilities, and the official statistics are not a reliable indicator of the actual number of cases in the country. Although the government’s position is that Mexico is still in “Phase 1” of the pandemic, meaning all diagnosed cases of COVID-19 are people who caught the virus while traveling abroad, most experts agree the virus is already rapidly spreading within Mexico and that the government’s nonchalance about the situation could have disastrous results. 

“We need political leaders that are properly advised and understand the gravity of the situation,” said Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University. “A lot of people in Mexico would die unnecessarily unless the government gets very seriously prepared for this.” Getting seriously prepared means taking drastic measures to curb the spread of the virus, bolstering the hospital system, and helping people cope when the economy grinds to a halt. 

The Mexican government has not yet imposed any travel restrictions nor encouraged people to stay home, and it seems very unlikely that the public health system, which suffered drastic budget cuts and shortages last year, will be prepared for the magnitude of the imminent crisis. 

“The current guidelines are ‘wash your hands, don’t touch your face, and avoid people who are coughing,’ ” said Gordon McCord, a professor at the School of Global Policy & Strategy at the University of California San Diego.