MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico surpassed 700,000 confirmed coronavirus cases on Monday even as health authorities cited what they described as nearly two months of slowing infection rates.
On Monday, the Health Ministry reported 2,917 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the Latin American country, bringing the total to 700,580 as well as a cumulative death toll of 73,697.
According to a Reuters tally, Latin America has recorded around 8.7 million coronavirus cases and over 322,000 deaths, both figures being the highest of any region.
While Brazil is the hardest-hit country in the region, Peru, Colombia and Mexico have also seen severe outbreaks.
Despite aggressive lockdown measures in many countries across the region, as well as widespread compliance in mitigation strategies such as masks and social distancing, experts suggest that the region’s rampant poverty and large informal economies have made containment difficult.
In Mexico, senior health authorities like Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell, the public face of the government’s coronavirus strategy, have conceded that the real number of cases in the country is significantly higher that the official figures indicate.
Still, he argues that the outbreak in Mexico has shown signs of slowing over the past couple of months.
“We now have eight consecutive weeks of a falling (caseload),” Lopez-Gatell told reporters at a regular briefing on Monday evening.
He previously cited falling rates of new hospitalizations and deaths.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was criticized early on for minimizing the health crisis, encouraging families to go out to restaurants even as other countries were imposing lockdown measures. He has very rarely used a mask in public.
(Reporting by Raul Cortes Fernandez and Josue Gonzalez; Writing by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Tom Brown and Peter Cooney)