Mexico City discourages large gatherings as COVID-19 hospitalizations rise

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Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Ciudad Juarez
Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Ciudad Juarez

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The mayor of Mexico City, the country's largest city, on Friday called on residents to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people as the capital grapples with a surge of coronavirus hospitalizations.

Health authorities have been warning that large gatherings, such as the Nov. 1-2 Day of the Dead festivities that usually draw hundreds of thousands of people nationwide, could prompt another wave of infections.

The pandemic has led to more than 874,000 infections and killed nearly 87,900 people in Mexico.

Mexico City mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said that from October 10 to 19, total coronavirus hospitalizations in the capital rose to 2,775 from 2,565, still far below the peak of 4,575 hospitalized patients in late May.

She added that six out of 10 beds hospital beds are still available for COVID-19 patients.

Mexico City will remain at the second-most restrictive level on a four-level scale of health measures but cemeteries that typically host Day of the Dead celebrations will be closed for the holiday, Sheinbaum said.

"We're not at the level to return to 'red,'" Sheinbaum told reporters, referring to the strictest level of containment measures. "But we're also not in a situation to open new activities."

She recommended that gatherings be limited to no more than 10 people after large weddings, baptisms and other celebrations in which proper health measures were not observed led to the spread of the virus.

Six federal entities, not including Mexico City, have shown signs of fresh coronavirus outbreaks in recent days, health officials said this week.

(Reporting by Raul Cortes; Writing by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)