Mexico president says falling COVID cases 'encouraging'

The country's official COVID-19 death toll of around 215,000 is the third highest in the world after those of the United States and Brazil, and the actual figure is believed to be significantly worse.

In this file handout picture taken on December 15, 2020 and released by Mexico's Presidency press office, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador speaks during a press conference in Mexico City. Picture: AFP

MEXICO CITY, Mexico - Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Tuesday welcomed signs of an easing of the pandemic in his country, which has one of the world's highest coronavirus death tolls.

"COVID-19 infections are falling. The harmful effects of the pandemic are decreasing across the country," Lopez Obrador said at his daily news conference.

"It's more encouraging. It's a breath of fresh air," he said.

"We still have to take very good care of ourselves, but it's good news," added the left-wing populist, who announced in February that he himself had overcome a coronavirus infection.

The country's official COVID-19 death toll of around 215,000 is the third highest in the world after those of the United States and Brazil, and the actual figure is believed to be significantly worse.

In contrast to many parts of the world, however, new cases and fatalities have declined since a surge in January that the authorities blamed on social gatherings around the New Year.

Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell, the country's coronavirus czar, said there had been 14 consecutive weekly declines in the estimated number of infections, deaths and hospitalizations.

He said that the weekly number of deaths had dropped from 9,549 to 1,621 over the period, while hospitalizations had declined by 79 percent.

The slowdown has led to an easing of lockdown measures in areas including Mexico City, where private offices were allowed to reopen on Monday with reduced occupancy for the first time in more than a year.

The improvement comes despite warnings last month of a possible new wave of infections after the Easter holidays around the start of April.

The country of 126 million has administered 16.5 million coronavirus vaccine doses so far, with priority given to public health workers and the elderly.

Immunizations of people aged 50 to 59 will begin in the first week of May, the authorities said.

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