Mexico’s Endemic Services Need Pandemic CareBy Karel Fucikovsky de Grunhof Knap | Tue, 03/09/2021 - 09:18
Are we on the right path with our vaccination and immunization strategy in Mexico? What negative endemic collateral economic and social impact is the global pandemic producing and developing in our country? Shouldn’t we also prioritize our country’s fundamental and key economic activities in the current strategies implemented by the national vaccination program put in place by our health authorities?
These are the three questions that are grabbing most of my attention, although I also understand that they are tied together. The rollout of structural strategies to attain and mitigate the effects of the pandemic are outstripped by the size of the crisis from a governmental perspective and given the huge limitations that the private sector is working under.
From a scientific perspective, “endemic” is a concept related to illnesses that affect a determinate country or region, normally in specific seasonal circumstances (for instance, the fact that Malaria is still present in some African countries). However, I also like to define and use the idea of endemic in the strict sense of the whole atomization of economic activities that have been impacted, that suffer and that have been sacrificed the most during this pandemic and economic slowdown. These derive from cases of sometimes being on full lock down, from a macro viewpoint, but even more so from the perspective of clusters of regional and local (micro) economical fundamental activities whose existence and survival have been jeopardized.
I must applaud the achievements and monumental effort of the government, especially those spearheaded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its competent team (among others), in regard to the negotiations that made it possible for Mexico to obtain vaccines, as well as the vaccination and immunization campaign that has now started. Yet, I must also disagree with the strategy put in place, as I understand that the health crisis has transformed into a profound economic crisis (also referred as the “other pandemic”) not seen since the 1932 crash, with different endemics produced and developed in Mexico.
The vaccination strategy, in my view, should include not only the elderly population (identified as a priority) and the dramatically incomplete universal vaccination of all healthcare workers and providers (whether private or public), but extend also to those in our key national economic and endemic activities: tourism and related services that include not only hotels, restaurants, bars, entertainment and culture, overall, but also the entire value chain and aggregate demand that this sector nourishes.
Those in these services are the ones who have suffered the most. They have been in “intensive care” since day one of the pandemic. This sector and its related services are our second-largest source of national income and GDP, and currently they lie in intensive care. Including these sectors in the vaccination strategy could be an assertive measure to restart a serious economic recovery and thus, contribute to the “herd immunity” recommended by some within the WHO organization and other experts on the topic.
Unofficially, the country’s GDP contracted in 2020 at an approximate rate of -8.5% versus 2019, with 2.4 points of this contraction coming from the tourism arena. The government must start implementing this new vaccination strategy that targets key economic activities, such as the tourism and services sector. This proactive measure would not only reactivate the economy but also send a strong and clear message to the world that it is safe to travel back to Mexico, that the risk of infection due to COVID-19 is low and controlled, and that actions are being taken through the joint efforts of the government and private sector to immunize those in top tourist destinations, such as Cancun, Riviera Maya, Acapulco, Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta, Veracruz and the “Bajio Colonial.”
Such action would actively demonstrate that if we want to support our local endemics and start a rebound in the economic growth process during this health pandemic, the country needs to return to safe, foreign investment and expenditure. Certainty and job creation have been put on hold for thousands of families, and that sadly has pushed many of them into the informal economy to gain a source of income to survive. Key national strategic activities are in strong need of healing so they can also contribute to healing Mexico overall.
It will continue to be up to the authorities and the private sector to create greater and deeper synergies for a better future. Mexico deserves to come back stronger for Mexicans and for the world.