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Mexico City mayor splits with feds over contact tracing

Jude Webber in Mexico City

Days after reportedly clashing with Mexico’s coronavirus tsar and accusing him of lying to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador over the true state of the Covid-19 pandemic, the capital’s mayor, Claudia Sheinbaum promised to roll out mass testing and contact tracing.

Ms Sheinbaum’s strategy is at odds with that of the federal government.

While Mr López Obrador has said he is not opposed to more testing, Hugo López-Gatell, the health undersecretary who is the public face of the coronavirus fight, has said he has “no particular interest” in knowing how many cases they are because it would not alter the thrust of the government’s strategy.

The mayor said 2,700 tests a day would be conducted in 117 health centres while health “brigades” would perform contact tracing in person if people who may have become infected are not reachable by telephone.

Under a new “traffic light” system governing how fast Mexico can open up, the entire country is still on red, meaning most activities remain off-limits. But Ms Sheinbaum, pictured above, called the Mexico City plan a “new strategy, while we advance to the amber and yellow traffic light, we’ll continue to avoid infections”.

The city government said the plan was to halt the chain of infection by isolating positive cases and their contacts.

The federal government has not yet spelled out a contact tracing plan as the country emerges from quarantine, despite fears that piecemeal adherence to lockdown could spark a second wave of infections.

Mexico on Thursday confirmed 129,184 cases and 15,357 deaths but the low level of testing – less than 370,000 – means the numbers are widely considered to be a gross underestimation. Mexico City confirmed 33,173 cases and 4,106 deaths as of Thursday.

According to unconfirmed media reports, Ms Sheinbaum and Dr López-Gatell have clashed recently over the handling of the pandemic.

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