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Home Highlights Update on COVID-19 in Mexico and Central America

Update on COVID-19 in Mexico and Central America

The coronavirus, COVID-19, is affecting 213 countries and territories around the world. As of 31st May 2020, there are 6.2 million (M) confirmed cases, and yesterday alone there was an increase of 67,877 new cases reported. COVID-19 has caused at least 372,340 deaths, i.e. the population size of Belize. I say “at least,” because in many places, the official daily figures exclude anybody who did not die in a hospital, or who never was tested for the virus, or there may be intentional under-reporting of cases by official authorities. As of today, the USA and Brazil lead the world with some 1.83 M and 0.5 M confirmed cases, respectively. The US has already registered 106.9 thousand deaths as of 31st May, 2020.

In regards to Mexico and Central America, our geo-referenced region, we can compare these countries in terms of: the size of population, total number of confirmed cases, new cases reported yesterday, total deaths so far, total number of cases per 1 M (one million persons) population, total number of deaths per 1 M population, and total tests per 1 M population, as presented in this table for each country.

The countries are ranked by the number of total cases per 1 M population, which is the best indicator to compare the rate of infection across countries. We can observe the following from the latest data on the table, reported for 31 May, 2020:

1) The population of the region is 179.5 million, but Mexico accounts for 128.8 million, and Belize is the smallest with only 0.4 million. Being the largest country, Mexico has reported the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, i.e. 87,512 persons have tested positive.

2) Mexico has reported the highest number of COVID-19 cases, more than all the other countries put together, but when this is adjusted for the size of the population, Panama is living with the highest rate of infection: 3,021 per 1M population, which is 5 times higher than the levels of Mexico, Honduras and El Salvador. Belize has the lowest in the region, with 45 cases per 1 M population.

3) Panama has the highest level of testing — 15,363 per 1 M population, a notch higher than El Salvador, and all the others are way below the average rate of testing of 6,226 for the whole region. Belize is at 3,900 tests per 1 M, which is lower than that of Costa Rica but quite higher that the rates for Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala. Costa Rica has done exceptionally well in keeping its death rate at 2 per 1 M population, the lowest in the region.

4) In terms of deaths per 1 M population, Panama has the highest rate with 77, followed closely by Mexico at 76 and Honduras with 20 deaths. All the other countries have reported rates of 7 deaths or less per 1 M population.

Finally, based on the new cases reported per country, we can appreciate the justification for Belize continuing to keep its borders closed with Mexico (2,885 new cases), Guatemala (208 new cases) and Honduras (132 new cases). And on 21 May 2020, Mexico reported 2,248 new cases, Guatemala 132, and Honduras 145 new cases, which means that their infection rates presently are still climbing.

Based on these regional data, the probability of contracting this coronavirus is very low (114,704/179.5 M), but we are testing less than 0.6% of the population (6,225/1 M population). Given the social variations within each country, the testing rate should be at least 5%. If one does contract the virus, there is a 4% probability of dying of the virus (21/654). This probability of dying is mainly due to the availability and quality of health care, as in the particular case of Costa Rica, with the lowest death rate.

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