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Mexico’s undersecretary of health calls for calm in the face of rising Covid cases: ‘We must not exaggerate’

Dr. López-Gatell admits that the number of infections in the country has increased — as the National Autonomous University of Mexico has pointed out — but rules out the massive use of face masks

Hugo López-Gatell durante la conferencia matutina en Palacio Nacional
Undersecretary of Health Hugo López-Gatell, during a morning conference at the National PalaceGalo Cañas (CUARTOSCURO)

Mexico’s Undersecretary of Health Hugo López-Gatell tried to calm the public on Tuesday, after alerts were issued by the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) about the increase in Covid-19 cases across the country.

“It’s important not to overstate [the data], not to exaggerate the concern about something that the university very clearly and objectively presents,” he stated during the president’s morning conference. The academic body released a statement on Monday, in which it recommended that students use face masks when returning to classes — especially in closed and crowded spaces.

Dr. López-Gatell brushed off the suggestion in the UNAM letter, stating that there are “no warning signs” of a significant rise in Covid-19. “There’s just a little bit of variation in the intensity of [cases being recorded].” The latest data from the National Council of Humanities, Science and Technologies (Conacyt) is from June: it indicates that there were 3,558 active cases in the country that month. That same month, the authorities recorded several spikes in infections, which showed occasional increases. Proof of this is that there were 586 cases on June 12, compared to, say, 18 cases registered on the 24th.

Although the data is not alarming — “the situation is calm,” the undersecretary assured the public — the UNAM recommended that students wear masks in certain circumstances. López-Gatell has defended the usefulness of the face mask to reduce the spread of the virus, but has ruled out the need to resume the measure en masse. “It’s not bad if [the students] use it, there’s no problem… but we’re not making a recommendation for massive use [of masks]. Obviously, we must take into account that the winter season is coming,” he added.

Mexico decreed the end of the Covid-19 health emergency on May 9 of 2023, a few days after the World Health Organization (WHO) announced it internationally. The North American country thus put an end to more than three years of a health emergency — which began on March 23, 2020 — considering that sufficient requirements had been met: a downward trend in infections and deaths, as well as high levels of immunity among the population. The disease killed more than 334,000 people in Mexico, with over 7.6 million cases recorded since its inception.

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