COVID-19 testing ‘is a waste of time’, says Mexico’s Health Secretary

The Mexican undersecretary of Health, Hugo López-Gatell, appeared this Wednesday before the leaders of the Senate to explain the strategy of the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador regarding the pandemic of COVID-19 in the country, a disease that has claimed the life of more than 8,000 people.

In an early meeting with members of the Upper House’s Political Coordination Board (Jucopo), held remotely, the official was harshly questioned by the opposition regarding various issues, including the amount of COVID-19 testing carried out by the country and the registry of confirmed cases.

López-Gatell defended the position of the current administration and the health authorities. “No one knows how many infected there are in their country, but it is not because there is no desire,” he said.

“In Mexico, a narrative has been given that only in this country does the total count not exist. It is false and it is demonstrable: the difference of the Mexican government, unlike the majority, is that it has declared that it does not have the purpose of counting all cases,” he assured.

While no county has tested every citizen, Mexico currently tests only .4 people per 1,000 inhabitants, the worldwide average is 22 tests per 1,000 inhabitants. The more direct question is can you truly understand the spread of the pandemic with such low numbers of testing? How is the government able to claim the pandemic curve has been flattened with such a small sampling?

Furthermore, he pointed out that, on the contrary, “modern and proven efficient mechanisms must be used,” such as focused epidemiological surveillance. “We do not intend to deceive the population in any way,” López-Gatell added.

One of those who took advantage of the official’s appearance was Senator Dante Delgado, of the Citizen Movement (MC), who, in addition to alerting about the lack of testing, assured that “there was time to prepare and it was wasted.” “The measures have come late and the conduct of the crisis has been riddled with errors and contradictions,” added the Emecista official.

López-Gatell responded to these concerns, citing the OECD analysis. “In the document, we did not identify that there was an explicit recommendation on the number of tests or the proportion of tests that a country should do, ” he said. Although as an epidemiologist, the specialists should have some knowledge on what creates an acceptable sampling, and if .04 people tested per 1,000 citizens is enough to provide scientifically proven statistics on the spread of a virus.

Senators of the PAN (National Action Party) even carried out a silent protest during the appearance of López-Gatell: several of them used a face mask with the words “More Testing” or “We want testing” inscribed on the front.

The request of the PAN senators was replicated by other legislators of that party on social networks. “Mexico is one of the countries with the fewest tests to detect COVID-19. If we want to flatten the curve, we need to know the reality in our country to apply efficient measures and an emergency plan. We want evidence to get out of this crisis as soon as possible, ”said the PAN’s national leadership.


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