MEXICO CITY – Mexico exceeded 75,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths Thursday as the pandemic hit Latin American nations with large informal economies where workers grappled with the dual threats of starvation and contagion.
According to a Reuters report, Mexico has the fourth highest number of coronavirus deaths worldwide after the USA, Brazil and India. Despite the closure of schools and offices six months ago, the Mexican government is struggling to contain the spread of the virus.
On Thursday, the Ministry of Health reported 490 more deaths attributable to the highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus. A total of 75,439 people were killed.
More than half of Latin America’s active population have informal jobs in areas such as street trading and housework. In Mexico, working from home or strict social distancing measures may not mean income because the safety net for wellbeing is small.
The sprawling and densely populated working-class neighborhoods of Mexico City have been among the hardest hit by the virus and the economic problems it has caused.
Alejandro Castillo, 68, never stopped selling brightly colored women’s leggings at his stall in Mexico City’s Tepito market during the pandemic, but sales have dropped by a third.
“It’s like a nightmare because you can’t see when it’s going to end,” Castillo said.
Nevertheless, Castillo feels happy. A co-seller and his son recently tested positive for COVID-19 two weeks after a nephew died of the disease. Another nephew of his colleague was so weakened by the virus that he can hardly speak.
Latin America remains the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, even as infections pick up again in Europe and the global death toll is expected to exceed 1 million this weekend.
In Mexico, numbers have been stubbornly high for months, even after the summer peaks, as the government prioritized increasing hospital capacity over testing and tracing.
The confirmed number of coronavirus cases is more than 715,000, according to the government.
With the testing rate far below most other major countries, Mexican officials realize that the real numbers are much higher.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador reiterated Thursday that infections and deaths are falling.
“We haven’t had a new outbreak in Mexico – we’re knocking on wood – we’re generally trending down,” he said at his morning press conference.
But the danger still feels uncomfortable for stand owner Castillo.
“The cases have grown closer lately. And there is still no real policy to deal with the pandemic, at least that’s how we see it, ”Castillo said.