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News Article

Mexico’s Response to COVID-19 Found Wanting

By Miriam Bello | Wed, 11/25/2020 - 16:26

An analysis based on 10 metrics to determine the best and worst countries to live in during the COVID-19 pandemic put Mexico at the bottom of the list. New Zealand, on the other hand, was ranked as the best place to live in during the pandemic.

Bloomberg’s “COVID Resilience Ranking” comparing 53 economies of more than US$200 billion considered growth in cases, monthly and accumulated mortality rates, testing capacity, vaccine agreements, local health system capacity, impact of COVID-19 restrictions, economic impact and freedom of movement of citizens. While the data can vary due to the uncertainty and fast-changing environment that COVID-19 has brought, the results portray global contrasts when facing the exact same problem.

What makes Mexico the worst-ranked country? Poverty has a lot to do with it, according to Bloomberg. Latin America has been one of the most devastated regions by the pandemic, which is why many countries in the region are among the lowest ranked countries in the analysis. Poverty in Mexico is a red flag for the healthcare system, Oliva López, Minister of Health of Mexico City, told MBN. When asking her about the major concerns for the ministry during the pandemic and the new normality, López said zones of extreme poverty are a concern. “We are being extra vigilant in those areas because one outbreak could be fatal.” In Mexico, 47.8 percent of the population lives in poverty, but institutions like CEPAL and CONEVAL foresee an increase to 67 percent or 56 percent respectively, as a result of economic losses stemming from social-distancing measures.

According to the Bloomerg analysis, testing was another key point for Mexico’s bottom position. “The nation’s latest available positive test rate is a whopping 62 percent, suggesting undetected infection is widespread,” said the report. This has been confirmed by healthcare authorities during several morning press conferences and COVID-19 evening conferences. This topic was specifically addressed after The New York Times released an article calling on Mexico City’s death tolls, evidencing that the real number of just that city was as high as the total number of official deaths that authorities registered for the whole country. Authorities acknowledged that the country’s death toll could be significantly higher than official data, due to limited testing.

Mario Sicilia, Director General of Laboratorio Médico Polanco, addressed this matter during an interview with MBN. “Mexico needs to increase COVID-19 testing because we are not detecting patients early enough. WHO suggest a positivity rate of 10 percent or lower, while Mexico is currently above 50 percent. This implies that the number of tests should be at least five times larger.”

Infrastructure and coverage of the local health system goes hand-in-hand with poverty and testing. “Looking at the entire country, there are many towns or communities that do not have a single doctor or that have weekly or periodic visits from doctors,” said German Fajardo, Director of the UNAM School of Health Sciences, in an MBN interview. This has been a historic problem that the current government is making efforts to correct with various initiatives such as Médicos para el Bienestar (Doctors for Well-Being), opening more vacancies for doctors and nurses to enter the public health system and increasing the number of participants and vacancies for the National Exam for Medical Residency Applicants (ENARM).

The woman-led country, New Zealand, has been an example of action since the beginning of the pandemic and according to the analysis, what has made this country so successful was its quick action to prevent massive outbreaks. Since March, the country made the decision to close the borders, despite the country’s high dependance on global tourism. Mass testing, contact tracing and strategic quarantining were part of the mix to stop local contagion and this has led to a very reduced number of COVID-19 cases in the country, deriving on a “new normality” looking much more similar than what the world actually was before COVID-19 as the country has confidently hosted concerts and other large social events.

On a TIME article, Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Arden, who just won its second term to led the country, was acknowledged for her management of the pandemic. According to the report, her understanding of the crisis led to a strict lockdown with a clear action framework that transmitted certainty and a sense of “meaning and purpose.”

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Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst