Mexico treats Omicron with a pandemic

Confronted with the rise of the extremely contagious Omicron variant, components of Europe have instituted journey restrictions, shut down nonessential companies and canceled massive occasions. In the US, the place instances are spiking, individuals can wait hours for a coronavirus take a look at.

Mexico is a unique story.

New infections and deaths have been on a downward slide because the Delta peak in the summertime. The seashore resorts of Acapulco and Cancun are filled with vacationers. Lockdowns look like a factor of the previous.

With the federal authorities reporting solely 42 instances of Omicron, the official response has been enterprise as common.

“We insist, it’s the identical epidemic,” Dr. Hugo López-Gatell, the undersecretary of well being, mentioned at a information convention this week, warning that “placing deliberate consideration” on Omicron instances is a distraction from the larger image.

That view has stoked fears amongst scientists that the nation is unprepared for a post-holiday-season Omicron wave.

They are saying that the one purpose extra instances of Omicron haven’t been discovered already is that not many individuals are trying — there’s too little testing and too little genetic sequencing.

“With out detecting it in time, it’ll disperse shortly,” mentioned Dr. Andreu Comas, a virologist on the Autonomous College of San Luis Potosi who’s a part of a consortium that displays variants. “As an alternative of seeing the wolf from two kilometers away, after we discover the wolf, it’ll be beside us.”

Based on the scientific publication Our World in Information, Mexico performs a mean of eight coronavirus assessments a day for each 100,000 individuals — about one-Fiftieth the U.S. fee.

“The reality is we’re in a airplane that doesn’t have devices,” mentioned Dr. Alejandro Macías, an infectious illness specialist on the College of Guanajuato who led Mexico’s response to the 2009 swine flu pandemic. “We’re residing in a sure honeymoon interval… We’re ready for Omicron.”

On the Coco Wax Studio within the hip Mexico Metropolis neighborhood of Condesa, Lilian Muñoz, an eyebrow technician, mentioned she’s adopted worldwide information experiences about Omicron and worries that Mexican officers are being complacent.

She mentioned their attitudes have trickled all the way down to her shoppers, who’ve forgotten their masks and have gotten irritated when she’s supplied them hand sanitizer.

The toll of the pandemic in Mexico, as in lots of international locations, stays unclear.

The official loss of life rely is 299,132. However Mexican authorities knowledge on “extra deaths” — what number of extra Mexicans are dying now in comparison with the years previous the pandemic — counsel the actual quantity might be as excessive as 644,599.

And when researchers examined a nationally consultant pattern of households final yr, they discovered that 1 in each 4 individuals had developed antibodies in opposition to the coronavirus — a far greater fee than testing would counsel.

In his feedback this week, López-Gatell appeared optimistic, noting that nationwide solely 11% of coronavirus intensive care beds are occupied.

“If there’s a fourth wave on account of Omicron, we would see many instances however a a lot smaller proportion of hospitalizations than in earlier waves … as a result of impact of the vaccine,” he mentioned.

About 73 million individuals — or 57% of the inhabitants — have been absolutely vaccinated, in keeping with the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Useful resource Heart.

As for a way the variant will have an effect on Mexico and the remainder of Latin America, Albert Ko, an epidemiologist on the Yale College of Public Well being, mentioned that it’s too early to inform.

Ko pointed to the thriller of why some Latin American international locations — together with Brazil, the main target of his analysis — didn’t expertise the loss of life fee that characterised the Delta wave in the US. One doable reply is widespread earlier publicity to the virus coupled with excessive vaccination charges.

“All through a lot of Latin America due to poverty, crowding, urbanization, there have been actually excessive transmission charges through the early phases of the pandemic and that was adopted by aggressive vaccination campaigns,” Ko mentioned.

Mexican scientists mentioned that if the coronavirus explodes once more in Mexico, the federal government will bear among the accountability.

They are saying the nation has prioritized its financial system, together with the tourism trade, over stopping the unfold of the virus. Mexico doesn’t require proof of a damaging coronavirus take a look at or vaccination for worldwide vacationers, and this week officers mentioned they might permit cruise ships to dock even when they had been carrying contaminated individuals.

In a latest tweet, López-Gatell mentioned that “measures to limit journeys or shut borders are of little use; they have an effect on the financial system and the well-being of communities.”

He mentioned this week that Mexico has no plans to vaccinate youngsters underneath 15 due to the low chance that they might die from the coronavirus — a remark that drew criticism from consultants who identified that contaminated youngsters may nonetheless cross the virus to extra weak individuals.

“Mexico has been facilitating the highway to Omicron,” mentioned Dr. Malaquías López Cervantes, a professor of public well being on the Nationwide Autonomous College of Mexico.

Presently, all however 4 of Mexico’s 32 states — Aguascalientes, Baja California, Chihuahua y Sonora — seem within the least restrictive degree of Mexico’s COVID-19 tier system, which recommends no limits on financial or social actions.

Native governments have been left to resolve on their very own measures. Mexico Metropolis this week canceled a live performance by the cumbia band Los Ángeles Azules on New 12 months’s Eve due to worries about spreading the virus.

Ernesto Orellana, an Uber driver in Mexico Metropolis, wears two masks to guard himself on the job. He typically has to remind his passengers to adjust to the corporate’s requirement they put on masks.

“At the moment there are lots of people who’re relaxed,” he mentioned. “I don’t know why they suppose that. All of us have the knowledge available. We all know that this continues.”

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Leila Miller is a overseas correspondent for the Los Angeles Occasions primarily based in Mexico Metropolis. She joined the newsroom in 2018 and spent a number of years engaged on the felony justice workforce. She was additionally a part of the workforce that was a 2020 Pulitzer finalist for its protection of the Conception boat fireplace off the Channel Islands. Born in Argentina however raised in Los Angeles, Miller is a graduate of Oberlin School and Columbia College’s College of Journalism.

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