MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico’s death toll from the coronavirus pandemic may reach 30,000, a senior health official said in a newspaper interview published on Wednesday, while suggesting fatalities could be even higher if social distancing measures were relaxed too fast.
With 10,637 deaths registered so far, Mexico has the seventh-highest coronavirus death toll in the world, with few signs that the number of new cases and deaths is slowing down.
Known infections in Mexico are likely to pass 100,000 on Wednesday, but officials say the true number of deaths and cases is likely higher due to limited testing.
Hugo Lopez-Gatell, an epidemiologist, said the pandemic is “not yet (tamed), neither in Mexico nor in the world” and urged local governments and citizens to stick to social distancing.
“It is a range between 6,000 to 30,000, with an average of 12,500,” Lopez-Gatell told the El Universal newspaper in an interview, while cautioning that the death range would not hold if local governments opened up bars or businesses too quickly.
“Obviously there would be a resurgence,” he said.
Mexico’s government has faced growing criticism for reopening parts of the economy before curbing the rate of new infections. This week, it gave state governments more responsibility for deciding when infections have come down fast enough to relax measures further.
Lopez-Gatell said he had first forecast the range of up to 30,000 deaths in February. He said the final count would depend on people’s adherence to rules.
The Pan American Health Organization has asked Mexico not to open its economy “immediately” because of the risk of accelerating infections.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Wednesday said he was concerned about the number of cases in the state of Tabasco and the capital, Mexico City.
Hospitals in Mexico City are at 80% capacity when it comes to treating coronavirus patients, officials say.
(Reporting by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Alistair Bell)