19 mayo, 2021

Mexico’s coronavirus deaths are plummeting. The ‘Biden wall’ could be a factor.

MEXICO CITY — After suffering one of the world’s deadliest coronavirus outbreaks, Mexico is witnessing a significant decrease in cases — and the U.S. vaccination campaign might be one reason, scientists say.

Confirmed deaths from covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, have tumbled more than 85 percent since January, when a brutal second wave swept the country. Mexico City, the epicenter of the country’s outbreak, went off high alert this month for the first time in a year. Officials say the capital’s coronavirus alert could soon turn from yellow to green — that is, from medium risk to low.

The abrupt decline in cases has brought relief to exhausted hospital workers and some sense of normalcy to a battered nation. During the weekend, the capital’s massive Azteca Stadium opened to fans for the first time in 14 months. Thousands turned out for a pair of quarterfinal matches in the Liga MX soccer league.

“We’re returning to life,” Alvaro Jesús Rosas, 35, a car painter and die-hard fan of the Mexico City team Cruz Azul, said as he headed into the stadium.

Scientists and government officials say the pandemic seems to be abating — at least temporarily — because of increasing levels of immunity on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. As much as half the Mexican population has developed antibodies because the coronavirus circulated so widely over the past year. In addition, U.S. vaccinations appear to be blocking the southward spread of the virus.

Scientists warn that Mexico is nowhere near reaching “herd immunity,” and that variants could still wreak havoc. Officials are calling on people here to continue to wear masks and socially distance. Still, for a country that has suffered at least 330,000 deaths from covid-19, according to official estimates, the recent waning offers hope.

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The 17-week decline in new cases is “very encouraging,” Hugo López-Gatell, the government’s coronavirus czar, told The Washington Post. He said he couldn’t rule out a third wave of infections. But if both the United States and Mexico reach high levels of immunity, he said, “that would make it unlikely a local outbreak would cause a change in the national trend.”

The main reason for the decline in cases appears to be that many Mexicans have been exposed to the coronavirus, López-Gatell said. A nationwide government study found 25 percent of participants tested positive for antibodies between August and November 2020. Then came the Christmas-season spike in infections — the most intense of the pandemic. Now, the Health Ministry estimates at least 50 percent of Mexicans have immunity, mostly because they have been infected, López-Gatell said.

There may be another, intriguing factor. Malaquías López-Cervantes, a professor of public health at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, dubbed it the “Biden wall.” With nearly half the U.S. population vaccinated with at least one shot, he said, fewer infections are being carried to Mexico.

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