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Mexico’s low coronavirus cases draws skepticism — should travellers worry?

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Months into a global virus outbreak-turned-pandemic, Mexico’s total count of confirmed cases of the new coronavirus to date sits at a meagre 12. But one doctor isn’t so sure that’s accurate.

Francisco Moreno Sánchez, the head of internal medicine at ABC Hospital in Mexico City, told local media Wednesday that he’s worried about the lack of diagnostic testing in the country and fears there are “many more cases” circulating “undetected.”

He said if true, the spread of the disease will have a “brutal” impact on Mexico.

“We need to copy what some other countries are doing in early detection of the disease,” Moreno said in an interview with El Heraldo Radio, adding that he believes the country is “waiting for the problem to start before taking measures.”

“My fear is that, when it grows, we’re going to be far from being able to contain it.”

Moreno also expressed concern about how the nation’s health-care system would fare under a widespread outbreak. He said as of now, there are only three medical centres in Mexico certified to test for COVID-19. But for someone to get tested, they must have recently travelled to a country deemed “high-risk” or have known contact with an infected person.

As of March 11, Mexico’s Health Ministry had conducted a total of 324 tests.

Moreno believes this strategy is limiting accurate case identification since the virus has now spread to more than 100 countries.

Mexico’s president has urged the population to remain calm, saying the country has the “capacity to handle the situation.” He’s gone as far as downplaying the concerns.

Part of Moreno’s worry about the virus stems from Mexico’s lack of measures at its airports. The country has not implemented many border screening measures at airports or other ports of entry for travellers to Mexico. The government said it has no plans to restrict international travel or close borders despite a measure announced by the United States.

Detection methods at Mexico’s capital city airport were only intensified after the eighth confirmed case. The country postponed its first major event — an international tourism conference — over virus fears on Thursday.

The global outbreak comes during one of the busiest travel times of the year for Canadians and Americans.

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