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(From left) The Mexican officials Oliva Lopez Arellano, secretary of health; Undersecretary of Health Hugo Lopez-Gatell; and Jose Luis Alomia Zegarra, general director of epidemiology at the Ministry of Health. Photo: dpa

Coronavirus: Mexico confirms first two cases of contagion

  • President Andrés Manuel López Obrador appeared to play down the seriousness of the Covid-19 illness
  • Neither patient was thought to be seriously ill on Friday

Mexico’s assistant health secretary announced on Friday that the country now has two confirmed cases of the new coronavirus.

Hugo Lopez-Gatell said one of the patients was in Mexico City and the other in the northern state of Sinaloa. While a second test is still pending on that case, he said, “We are treating this as confirmed.” Neither patient is seriously ill.

At least five family contacts of the first patient have been placed in isolation. He said one of the men had contact with someone who had travelled to the northern Italian region where there has been an outbreak.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador appeared to play down the seriousness of the Covid-19 illness, saying “it isn’t even equivalent to flu”.

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Seasonal flu kills more people because it has infected far more people, but the new virus appears to have a far higher mortality rate.

In the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus first exploded, 2 per cent to 4 per cent of patients have died, according to the World Health Organisation. But in the rest of China, the death rate has been 0.7 per cent. On average, the death rate from seasonal flu is about 0.1 per cent.

“I repeat, according to the available information, it is not something terrible, fatal,” López Obrador said. “There shouldn’t be any yellow journalism, or exaggerations, to cause a mass psychosis of fear, of terror.”

Brazil on Wednesday confirmed Latin America’s first confirmed coronavirus case, a man who travelled to Italy this month.