No light in the tunnel of the pandemic in Mexico

Aucune lueur dans le tunnel de la pandémie au Mexique

In Mexico, no harbinger of a slowing of the pandemic is not visible. And for cause: the containment is still not required and the economic assistance to the population is inadequate, according to expert opinion.

The authorities seem to move in groped to get out of this downward spiral health, which has forced the unemployment of the many Mexican employees of the sector of the informal economy.

The refusal to impose the enforced confinement of the population, from the beginning of the crisis, was a decision of the president of the left, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO).

He had justified the risk by advancing the argument of the respect for human rights, but above all, the need for millions of informal workers – 56% of the labor force – feeding.

“There has never been a quarantine strictly. As a society, we have not had the discipline necessary to stay with us, the chains of transmission of the virus have not been cut,” says Malaquías López, a former health official and expert in public policy at the national autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

With 127 million inhabitants, Mexico is the fourth country in the world in terms of deaths due to the COVID-19 (40 400) and the seventh in terms of infections (356 255).

In spite of these figures, and while some countries are preparing for the possibility of a second wave of the disease, AMLO says without batting an eyelid that the epidemic is in decline, albeit “very slowly”, and that the health system still resists.

The ministry of Health recognizes, however, that the average increase of new cases is 1.2 % per day, and that it will take “several months” to achieve adequate control in most of the 32 States of the mexican federation.

Insufficient support

Other ideas from AMLO has also restricted the government assistance, as his penchant for austerity and its aversion to debt and economic stimuli, which he described as measures of the “neo-liberal”.

According to the economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the budget plan of Mexico to address the health crisis is the equivalent of 1.1 % of GDP.

Mexico is located as well in 12th position among the 16 Latin American countries, which have, on average, allocated budgets of 3.2 % of their GDP.

The mexican president has preferred to focus on support programs for the elderly, children and young people, campaign promises are deemed to be unsuited to the disastrous consequences of the containment for the economy of the country.

He also promised in April to grant three millions of loans to small businesses and workers, a value of 1110 dollars each. But as of Friday, only 963 831 loans had been distributed, according to the government.

“The amounts are not in accordance with reality”, warns Caesar Salazar, an academic at the Institute of economic research of the UNAM.

The lack of an appropriate response to the magnitude of the crisis explains the gloomy forecast for the mexican economy, which would fall by 9% this year, according to analysts, while the unemployment is now affecting 12 million people since April.

The imposition of a true measure of confinement might aggravate a situation already made dramatic by the period.

Coup de grace

A new paralysis of the economy “would be the coup de grace to many companies that have still managed to survive”, warns Mr. Salazar, who considers that in such a scenario, the State should increase its support.

The municipality of Mexico city, the area most affected by the new coronavirus, has put in place alternatives to total containment.

The capital has thus increased the screening tests of the virus in order to restrict the mobility of people, while the federal government shows the contrary to say the least, reluctant to proceed with tests in mass.

To this day, Mexico is the Latin American country that performs the least number of tests per 1,000 inhabitants, according to the university of Oxford.

The strategy of “containment” of Mexico finds no echo within the federal government, which insists on the guarantee of medical care, rather than containment.

“We prefer to let the pandemic to evolve, trying to avoid the saturation of the hospitals,” says Alejandro Macías, an expert in infectious diseases and “tsar” of the pandemic influenza H1N1 2009.

The authorities have predicted that given the size of the mexican territory – nearly 2 million square kilometres – the coronavirus strike in the form of localized epidemics that should be fought locally.

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