World News

Mexico widens net for infections in battle against coronavirus

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican health authorities will begin this week to use a broader definition to identify possible coronavirus cases, a top official said on Monday, after questions about whether testing was too limited.

FILE PHOTO: Medical staff wearing suits with happy faces drawn on them, are seen inside the military hospital at the Heroic Military Academy which takes care of patients with symptoms of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Mexico City, Mexico August 20, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

A new definition of “suspected” infections will come into use on Tuesday and will include loss of smell, loss of taste and diarrhoea as possible COVID-19 symptoms, Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell said.

It will also allow a person with just one symptom, rather than two or more, to be viewed as potentially infected.

“This gives you a larger margin of potential, which will result in faster, timelier attention for a greater number of people,” Lopez-Gatell told a news conference.

The broader definition could lead to a higher number of cases but that would be an “artificial effect” before stabilizing, he said.

Mexico’s policy is to apply tests to people who show sufficient symptoms, he noted.

Mexico on Monday reported 3,541 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and 320 more fatalities, bringing its total tallies to 563,705 cases and 60,800 deaths.

It has the world’s third-highest toll from the pandemic and the government has said the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than confirmed cases.

Last Friday, the World Health Organization’s top emergency expert, Mike Ryan, noted that Mexico applies about three tests per 100,000 people, compared with about 150 tests per 100,000 people in the United States, and has a high positivity rate.

“That means many, many, many people are either being under-diagnosed or diagnosed late, and certainly this is having a differential impact in the country,” Ryan told a news conference in Geneva.

Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon and Miguel Angel Gutierrez; Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva