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WHO calls Mexico's rising coronavirus trend 'very worrisome'

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FILE PHOTO: Novel coronavirus rapid antigen testing in Mexico City

GENEVA (Reuters) - The head of the World Health Organization said on Monday that Mexico is in "bad shape" regarding the coronavirus as infections and deaths surge, while the Mexican government forecast the pandemic would likely continue worsening until January.

Mexico's coronavirus death tally, the fourth highest in the world, stands at almost 106,000. Confirmed cases are in excess of 1.1 million, though public health experts say the true figure is likely significantly higher.

"The number of increase in cases and deaths in Mexico is very worrisome," WHO's director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, told a press briefing in Geneva. Citing the increase in the number of weekly deaths from 2,000 the week of Oct. 12 to around 4,000 by Nov. 23, "This shows Mexico is in bad shape," he said.

At least seven of Mexico City's 54 public hospitals treating COVID-19 patients are at full occupancy for coronavirus beds with respirators, according to a report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The OCHA said another 14 health centers risk being stretched, with COVID-19 bed occupancies exceeding 70%. It noted that Mexico's Health Ministry reported 63% of all general hospital beds for COVID-19 patients in the capital are occupied.

"When both indicators, deaths and cases, increase I think this is a very serious problem and we would like to ask Mexico to be very serious," said Tedros.

Speaking later at an evening news conference, Mexico's deputy health minister, Hugo Lopez-Gatell, said he had "great respect" for Tedros and that he did not have to answer him.

Separately, Lopez-Gatell said the pandemic would very probably continue to worsen in Mexico until January.

Since Mexico began lifting its strictest lockdown restrictions in June, it has been reluctant to reimpose blanket measures because so many of the population living hand-to-mouth depend on being able to go out every day and do business.

However, some states have ratcheted up restrictions to contain the pandemic in recent weeks.

(Reporting by Emma Farge in Geneva and Raul Cortes and Dave Graham in Mexico City; Writing by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien and Leslie Adler)