Mexico stays on maximum virus alert entering second week of 'new normal'

Funeral workers transport the body of a person who died of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) inside a cardboard coffin in Mexico City

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico remains at the highest level of contagion alert going into the second week of its phased return to normal after seven days that saw the death toll from the coronavirus and new infections hit new highs, the health ministry said on Sunday.

On Monday, Mexico began transitioning towards a gradual reopening of the economy and society, which President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador dubbed the "new normal."

In effect, however, little changed, with all 31 states and the capital staying in the highest "red" level of alert as the government grapples to get the pandemic under control.

Mexico is using a four-stage (red-orange-yellow-green) model to lift restrictions on public life, and the ministry's latest update on the contagion risk on Sunday evening showed all of the states and Mexico City remained in the most acute level.

"Right now, with the whole country on the red signal, there's absolutely no reason for companies engaged in non-essential activities to open, or for activities in public spaces to be restarted," Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell said.

The ministry on Sunday reported 3,484 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections and 188 more fatalities, bringing the total in Mexico to 117,103 cases and 13,699 deaths.

Many of the most-recently reported fatalities had occurred weeks earlier and were not registered as coronavirus-related until later.

The government last month approved several so-called essential industries to begin re-opening, including carmaking, mining and construction, provided they were able to comply with the required sanitary measures.

Many such companies have started up again, though a vast swathe of the service sector is still in virtual limbo.

(Reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Gerry Doyle)