As a consequence of the current pandemic caused by COVID-19, as pointed out by the World Health Organization on March 11, 2008, there was still no formal declaration of a sanitary emergency in Mexico until yesterday, despite the fact that the Mexican Constitution expressly states that in case of serious epidemics, the General Health Council (the “Council”), as the sanitary authority, will have the obligation to immediately dictate the indispensable preventive measures for such epidemics. As a result, in recent weeks there has been a lack of coordination between the three levels of government and the individuals and companies in the social and private sectors that provide health services and, therefore, the purpose of the National Health System has been ineffective and it has not been possible to act congruently in the face of COVID-19.
The Council is a collegiate body under the President of the Republic in terms of article 73, section XVI, base 1a. of the Mexican Constitution, and has the character of a sanitary authority, with normative, consultative and executive functions. The provisions issued by the Board shall be of a general nature and binding in the country.
The Constituent when incorporating the bases that created the Council and the then called Department of Health, took into consideration, among other issues: (i) the need to have bodies capable of reacting promptly and efficiently to the various health contingencies that may arise; (ii) that such bodies had the necessary resources to react; and (iii) that they had the power to issue provisions of a binding nature for the entire nation without the intervention of administrative authorities.
Yesterday, March 19, 2020, the Council held an extraordinary meeting, with the purpose of adopting measures and plans for the protection of health in the face of COVID-19, and with the purpose of guaranteeing the fulfillment of the objectives for the creation of the Council, since it must be understood that it has the constitutional power to regulate, within the scope of its constitutional competencies, the areas that the General Health Law defines as matters of general health so that the Mexican State, in a coordinated manner, may effectively and timely attend to the needs of the population through a highly specialized technical and scientific body.
Among the resolutions adopted yesterday at the extraordinary session of the Board of Directors, the following stand out: (i) The plenary of the Council recognized the epidemic caused by COVID-19 in Mexico as a serious disease of priority attention; (ii) the Secretariat of Health shall establish the necessary measures for the prevention and control of the epidemic of COVID-19, in consensus with the members of the National Health System; and (ii) it was urged to define plans for hospital conversion and immediate expansion of capacity to guarantee timely attention to COVID-19 cases.