MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – New coronavirus cases in Mexico are expected to keep rising, a top health official said on Tuesday, even as the government pushes a gradual reopening of the economy launched at the beginning of this month.
“We still haven’t reached the maximum point,” Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell told a morning news conference. “For several more weeks, we will keep announcing there are more cases today than yesterday.”
His assessment was largely echoed by officials from the World Health Organization and its Pan American Health Organization during a webcast news conference later in the day.
While Mexico has yet to reach peak infections, they said, officials should boost testing before any wide-scale economic reopening and stick to safety measures, including social distancing.
Government figures released on Tuesday night showed nearly 600 deaths added to the official count as total infections rose to 124,301.
Overall, reported deaths stood at 14,649.
In recent weeks, Latin America has emerged as the epicenter of the pandemic, with a spike in cases even as the tide of infection recedes elsewhere.
Mexican officials have gradually raised the projections of total fatalities and now forecast up to 35,000 deaths through October.
A study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington last week forecast up to 75,516 deaths by August.
The government previously predicted the pandemic would peak in early May, and under U.S. pressure, has begun reopening its carmaking industry, which has since been deemed essential.
But plans to further relax social-distancing measures were put on hold as infection rates continued to rise.
Lopez-Gatell, who has coordinated the nation’s response, has said disaster had been avoided even as Mexico last week overtook the United States for the first time in daily reported deaths.
(Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon and David Alire Garcia; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel, Aurora Ellis and Peter Cooney)