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Mexico says it has avoided coronavirus ‘deluge’ even as cases mount

Tori Holland

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Mexico says it has avoided coronavirus 'deluge' even as cases mount

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico’s government said on Friday it had the coronavirus outbreak under control even as the country becomes one of the global hotspots for the pandemic.

FILE PHOTO: Cemetery workers place a coffin, containing the body of a 52-year old woman who died of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), into a grave at the San Rafael cemetery, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico May 19, 2020. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

The health ministry had forecast the outbreak could peak two weeks ago, but Mexico has posted its highest totals of deaths and infections in the past two days, trailing only the United States and Brazil for fatalities on Wednesday and Thursday.

“My grandparents were admitted the day before yesterday and they haven’t given us any information,” said 24-year-old Tania Gonzalez, as she stood outside a public hospital in Mexico City.

“We’re worried. We don’t know if they’re dead, alive, if they’re being treated, what sort of state they’re in.”

Under pressure from politicians, officials, and the business lobby in Washington, Mexico has already started to reopen parts of the economy.

However, some politicians and public health experts fear that may be premature. In the past seven days, Mexico registered 27% of its total 6,510 confirmed deaths from the coronavirus and 24% of the 59,567 cases. It reported its first case in February.

On Friday, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said the country was coping.

“The key thing is that in spite of the suffering and the loss of human life, we’ve avoided a deluge,” the president told a news conference. “We can rule that out.”

Mexico has so far avoided the kind of devastating mass outbreaks seen in northern Italy or New York. But deaths and new infections in Latin America’s second-largest country are still rising.

Mexico has not launched a widespread testing regime or imposed the kind of strict lockdown used in parts of neighboring Central America.

“It’s not just that the risk of infection is high but what’s being called a return to the new normal could make new cases increase exponentially… leading to more loss of life,” said Trizia Herrera, an associate at public policy consulting firm EPLOC.

“It seems premature that President Lopez Obrador is talking about ruling out a deluge in Mexico, as the epidemic is still growing.”

A Reuters survey of 18 funeral homes and crematoriums across the capital found that official statistics may be significantly understating the true death toll.

The government has said the actual number of cases likely exceeds the confirmed totals but Lopez Obrador has rejected reports the numbers are far higher.

Mexico City and the surrounding area has borne the brunt of the pandemic and occupation of hospital beds in the capital this week stood at 72%, a slight fall from last week.

Francisco Moreno, an infectious disease expert and head of the COVID-19 program at Mexico City’s ABC medical center, said the main issue was the availability of ventilators and medical staff trained to use them.

Some 64% of beds in the capital with ventilators were occupied as of Wednesday, the latest data show.

Reporting by Carlos Carrillo; Additional reporting by Dave Graham; Writing by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Rosalba O’Brien

After being a professional journalist for 5 years and understanding the ups and downs of health care sector all over the world, Tori shifted her focus to the digital world. Today, she works as a contributor for News Brig with a knack for covering general and health news in the best possible format.

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Health/Science/Environment

Thailand reports one new coronavirus cases, no new deaths

Tori Holland

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Thailand reports one new coronavirus cases, no new deaths

FILE PHOTO: A woman wearing a protective face mask and dressed in traditional costume visits Wat Chaiwatthanaram after the Thai government eased isolation measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the city of Ayutthaya Historical Park, Thailand, June 1, 2020. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand on Friday reported one new coronavirus infection and no new deaths, taking its total confirmed cases to 3,102, of which 58 have been fatalities.

The new case was a Thai man who had returned from Kuwait and was in quarantine, where most of Thailand’s recent cases have been detected, said Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a spokesman for the government’s COVID-19 Administration Centre.

There are 2,971 patients who have recovered.

Reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Martin Petty

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Hitachi, Toshiba, Miraca to set up factory for coronavirus antigen tests

Tori Holland

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Hitachi, Toshiba, Miraca to set up factory for coronavirus antigen tests

FILE PHOTO: Hitachi logos are seen on Electric Power Development Co. (J-Power) Oma Nuclear Power Station under construction in Oma town, Aomori prefecture, Japan December 4, 2015. REUTERS/Kentaro Hamada

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese industrial conglomerates Hitachi Ltd and Toshiba Corp will join with Miraca Holdings to increase production of antigen-based coronavirus tests, aiding in the country’s effort to screen more people for the new virus.

The alliance will double production of Miraca subsidiary Fujirebio’s testing kits, which received government approval in May, to 400,000 a week, the three companies said in a joint statement on Friday.

A new plant to make the kits will be established in Hokkaido prefecture, Japan’s northern island, and will start operations by December.

Larger output of antigen tests, designed for rapid detection of the virus, will help Japan do more surveillance of the virus. Japan is far behind many industrialised nations in testing for the virus, which critics say obscures the true scale of infection.

“We believe we can contribute in providing a system that enables prompt testing should second and third waves come,” a Miraca spokeswoman said.

Antigen tests scan for proteins found on or inside a virus, and typically test a sample taken from the nasal cavity using swabs. The tests can detect the virus quickly but produce false negatives at a higher rate than the currently dominant polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.

It takes about 10 to 30 minutes to get a result with Fujirebio’s palm-sized antigen test kit, Miraca said, compared with four to six hours for a PCR test. Miraca does not disclose the false negative rate for the kits.

In a rare partnership, Hitachi will provide engineering know-how, while Toshiba will offer facilities. Fujirebio currently produces test kits at a plant in southern Japan.

The coronavirus has infected more than 6.6 million people and killed about 391,000 around the world. Japan has had about 17,000 infections and 910 known deaths to date.

Reporting by Makiko Yamazaki; Editing by Chris Gallagher and Stephen Coates

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Coronavirus deaths surge in Brazil, Mexico as regional leaders look to reopen

Tori Holland

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Coronavirus deaths surge in Brazil, Mexico as regional leaders look to reopen

RIO DE JANEIRO/MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – The number of coronavirus deaths in Brazil blew past Italy’s toll on Thursday, while Mexico reported a record number of new cases, as regional leaders in Latin America push to end quarantine measures and kick their economies back into gear.

FILE PHOTO: People stand in front of a shop amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil June 2, 2020. REUTERS/Pilar Olivares

Latin America as a whole has become a new focus of the coronavirus pandemic, with health officials urging governments there not to open their economies too fast and to avoid public crowds.

Brazil posted a record number of daily deaths for third consecutive day on Thursday, with 1,437 deaths over the last 24 hours and 30,925 additional coronavirus cases, according to data released by the Health Ministry.

Total deaths in South America’s largest nation now stand at 34,021, trailing only the United States and the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile, Mexico reported 816 deaths on Thursday, the second consecutive daily record there, while total deaths surpassed 12,000.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has played down the pandemic, criticizing social distancing measures and urging regional government to lift restrictions for the sake of the economy.

On Tuesday, Bolsonaro told Brazilians that death is “everyone’s destiny.”

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has also urged his countrymen not to over-react, warning of “psychosis” on Thursday, and noting that deaths per capita for its nearly 130 million people was still far lower than in many other countries.

Mexico’s deaths from the virus ranks it seventh among countries worldwide, according to the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

With much of Latin America’s population living day to day from earnings in the informal sector, many regional leaders are keen to reopen local economies, amid signs of growing hunger and strains on public finances.

The mayor of Rio de Janeiro – Brazil’s second largest city, home to nearly 7 million people – allowed more than 10,000 street vendors to go back to work on Thursday

“The other day, some kid told me: I prefer to die of coronavirus than see my family die of hunger,” Rio Mayor Marcelo Crivella told journalists.

Later in the day, during a Facebook Live session, Bolsonaro encouraged the federal solicitor general to sue states to force them into reopening their beaches.

In Brazil, health officials say there are indications new hospitalizations are stabilizing, but new deaths and confirmed cases are still growing rapidly. Many epidemiologists warn the reopenings could be premature.

Reporting by Rodrigo Viga Gaier and Gram Slattery; Editing by Aurora Ellis, Daniel Flynn and Raju Gopalakrishnan

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