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Infections soar as Mexico moves toward restarting economy

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Jose Vargas stokes a carbon stove to heat tamales on Friday, as part of the street side breakfast stand he has operated for 15 years, with the help of his wife and sons, in the Xochimilco district of Mexico City,. AP Photo / Rebecca Blackwell

As Mexico moves toward a gradual reactivation of its economy starting Monday, new coronavirus infections grow higher every day.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is straddling the issue, telling the public that the fight against the virus depends on continued social distancing in many places while describing how other areas will begin to return to work Monday.

“We’re at the point where we begin to have fewer cases,” López Obrador said Friday. “But in these days we have to be more careful, not relax the discipline, don’t trust ourselves.”

The comments came on the same day the government clarified guidelines for the construction, mining and automotive industries to return to work Monday. The next two weeks will serve as a period to formalize their protocols to keep workers safe, but if they do so and get approval they can open any time before June 1.

There were 2,437 new coronavirus test confirmations Friday, the highest daily total yet and the second straight day with over 2,000 new cases. There were 2,409 on Thursday.

The numbers suggest the pandemic has not yet peaked in Mexico, while the daily number of deaths rose by 290, below the one-day peak of 353 deaths reported Tuesday. Mexico has seen a total of 4,767 deaths so far.

“We are at the moment of the fastest growth in new cases,” said Assistant Health Secretary Hugo López-Gatell. “This is the most difficult moment.”

Health officials have said the real number of infections is far higher. Mexico has a lower rate of testing for the virus than any of the world’s largest economies, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The country’s lockdown — which began in March — will remain in place, but those particular industries will be allowed to resume because Mexico’s top advisory body on the pandemic, the General Health Council, said Tuesday it had decided to classify them as “essential activities.”

There were signs that hospital capacity was nearing its limit Mexico City, the hardest-hit area. The Health Department reported that 73% percent of the city’s general care hospital beds were full; the percentage was lower for intensive-care beds, but that was partly because of the expansion of improvised ICU units at hospitals and other venues.

— Associated Press

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