A coronavirus second wave has been declared inevitable in the absence of a vaccine. What does that mean for Mexico?
MEXICO CITY (UNAM/LaVerdad) – Governments in the countries most affected by the coronavirus in some countries in Europe and Asia have begun, in recent weeks, to lift social distancing measures to reactivate their economies after the passage of the pandemic. Still, a second wave, deadlier and more uncontrollable, could be waiting around the corner. In what condition will Mexico be?
A second wave of coronavirus in October
Mexico, the second most contagious country in Latin America, began compulsory confinement on February 28. Authorities say they have managed to flatten the contagion curve. Still, Undersecretary of Health Hugo Lopez-Gatell himself said a second wave could hit the country in October.
The highest authority in the fight against the coronavirus epidemic in Mexico declared last week that a second wave could bring a 15% increase in severe infections. A second wave could lead to a 15% increase in critical cases of infection.
Lopez Gatell has said multiple times during his conferences that “the country’s fate will depend on how society acts concerning social distancing measures.” Even if the contagion curve decreases as of June 1, the arrival of influenza at the end of the year could be accompanied by a massive second wave for the country.
The population most vulnerable to an upsurge
The plan to return to the “new normal” consists of 3 stages, the first of which began on May 18 for the 269 municipalities of La Esperanza, spread over 15 states that are not infected and do not border other cities with infections. As of this Monday, these municipalities are open for school activities, public spaces, and work.
El plan de regreso a la #NuevaNormalidad consistirá en 3 etapas:— Gobierno de México (@GobiernoMX) May 13, 2020
-18 de mayo. Reapertura de Municipios de la Esperanza (sin contagios)
-18 al 31 de mayo. Preparación para reapertura con protocolos sanitarios
– 1 de junio. Implementación de sistema de semáforo por regiones
More than 30 municipalities of the so-called Municipalities of Hope, rejected the return to the “new normality” proposed by the Federal Government. The measures about reopening the country have not been well received by everyone, especially by experts who foresee a possible increase in cases of contagion if adequate control is not maintained in the areas to be reopened.
In Oaxaca, for example, the state with the most “Municipios de la Esperanza” -The municipalities of hope- called on authorities at all levels of government to reconsider allowing the return to activities in the state’s indigenous communities, as being in the midst of Phase 3, the risk of the problem worsening rather than improving is very high.
Human rights defenders in the sierra of Oaxaca, welcomed the state government’s decision to keep the municipalities closed because, in some regions of the country, such as the Sierra Norte of Oaxaca there are no doctors. It takes at least five hours by dirt road to reach a hospital from communities without telephones, internet, and high levels of marginalization.
Jalisco, where 23 municipalities are allowed to open, Governor Enrique Alfaro said, “it is a serious mistake” for the authorities in Mexico City since his state is still going through the highest peak of the pandemic.
In this regard, experts from the UNAM -the National Autonomous University of Mexico- warned that the so-called Municipalities of Hope, even thou being free of contagion, present a critical degree of vulnerability precisely because of the marginalization and lack of access to health that their inhabitants suffer.
The second wave of Covid-19 in Mexico would be of enormous risk for the most impoverished communities, distant from the country’s central points. Until May 15, the mortality rate among infected indigenous people is almost twice as high -20.2 %- as that of the general population 10.4 %.
What awaits Mexico
Víctor Velasco Herrera, a researcher at the UNAM Geophysics Institute, designs epidemiological models that estimate the number of infections during the pandemic and explains with his danger map the possible scenario for Mexico in the face of a second wave.
Velasco Herrera and his colleagues at UNAM expressed the urgency of developing long-term strategies to contain the virus since the new wave could be worse than the case in Italy.
Velasco maintains his hypothesis. He believes ultraviolet radiation, a natural anti-viral, has caused the virus to not present so violently in Mexico but warns that the arrival of rain and cold days in the second half of the year will create conditions conducive to the virus to move.
His prediction indicates that by week 30 of the year, which will arrive at the end of July, the second wave of Covid-19 would be starting. Still, this time the virus would end up covering the entire country.
Forecasts estimate that this “first stage” of the country’s epidemic will be in control by July or August. One of the most recent studies from the Institute for Health Measurement and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington indicates that by August 4, there would be some 6,859 in seven states.
The experience of European and Asian countries that have lifted prevention restrictions indicates that the best thing for Mexico would be to strengthen the health system and expand hospital spaces, which in this case should prioritize the most vulnerable areas.
Specialists in Mexico and around the world agree that not just one, but several waves of the coronavirus could repeat. Given the impossibility of preventing contagion until a vaccine is obtained and populations are immunized, the world will most likely have to get used to living with the virus.
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