Tourist visits lead to Covid-19 outbreak among Sonora’s indigenous Mexican people

Among the outbreak victims are Joel Barnett Morales, traditional governor of the Comcaác Nation, and Enrique Robles Barnett, president of the Council of Elders.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The third wave of Covid-19 has reached indigenous peoples in northern Mexico, in the state of Sonora, where there are at least 12 cases and 5 serious patients in an ethnic community of Punta Chueca, registered after the visit of domestic and foreign tourists.

The infections were detected after the arrival of hundreds of visitors to the Comcaác Nation in the Sonora desert to commemorate the New Year of the Seris, one of the main native groups of the state, which borders U.S. state Arizona.

But after the arrival of the tourists, the government of Sonora advised that it carried out a PCR test on more than 70 local inhabitants, among whom 12 positive cases were detected. However, the authorities warn of possible asymptomatic infected persons.

Among the outbreak victims are Joel Barnett Morales, traditional governor of the Comcaác Nation, and Enrique Robles Barnett, president of the Council of Elders.

Tourist visit leads to Covid outbreak among Sonora's indigenous Mexican people
Tourist visit leads to Covid outbreak among Sonora’s indigenous Mexican people. (Photo internet reproduction)

Due to their delicate state of health, at least five older adults required hospitalization at the State General Hospital to receive specialized care, but only one agreed.

“We spoke with each of the patients and their families about the risk of not going to the second level of care, but only one patient agreed to the transfer,” stated José Duarte Cubillas, head of Health Sonora’s Sanitary Jurisdiction 1.

The outbreak comes during the growing third wave of Covid-19 sweeping Mexico, which has accumulated more than 2.8 million cases and 240,000 confirmed deaths, the fourth-highest number globally.

Sonora ranks second nationally in Covid-19 mortality. Along with Baja California and the State of Mexico City, with a rate of 21 deaths from the disease per 10,000 inhabitants, the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Inegi) revealed this week.

According to the Ministry of Health, Sonora is now on yellow alert due to a hospital occupancy rate of more than 50%.

The contagion among the Seri reveals the challenges of managing cases in indigenous and remote communities. Cubillas reported that they sent a brigade with two doctors, two nurses, and two ambulances from the Centro Regulador de Urgencias Médicas, who also called on people to follow protective measures against the virus, such as the use of masks and healthy distance.

“We made much emphasis on the alarm data of severity of covid-19 and the importance of receiving second level care when presenting complications, the positive cases were provided with treatment and medical recommendations,” he said.

In addition to the visit to the Comcaác Nation of at least 400 nationals and foreigners between the end of June and the beginning of July on the indigenous new year, another health problem is water scarcity in the last few weeks. A plant to desalinate seawater has broken down.

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