In a grim development, the Mexican government said over the weekend that the actual death toll from COVID-19 was much higher than official figures, offering significant insight into the effect of the pandemic on the nation Latin American.
The ministry of health said sure Saturday that 294,287 people had died from the coronavirus pandemic in Mexico until February 14, a 60% increase from the number of deaths previously recorded. As of Monday, 27,538 additional deaths were recorded, bringing the total number of COVID-19-related deaths to more than 321,000.
The Johns Hopkins University COVID tracker, which Al Jazeera uses as an official tally, showed Mexico’s 2018 death toll on Tuesday.32 But if the new Mexican government figures are ultimately reflected in the Johns Hopkins tally, that would place Mexico just ahead of Brazil (313,866) in deaths in the world, behind the world leader in deaths, the United States (550,371), two countries with much larger populations. .
Luis Omar Monarrez Luna, a doctor who has been treating COVID patients exclusively for more than a year at a hospital in the city of Ciudad Juarez, said the revised figures were no surprise. “From the start, we could see that the numbers [of deaths] did not appear correctly in the official tally, ”Monarrez told Al Jazeera.
“We would see one day that 10 people were [officially] reported dead, while in my hospital alone 15 would have died, ”he said.
Monarrez has said his specialty is physical therapy, but among an overwhelming number of COVID patients last year, the entire hospital and staff have been deployed to treat COVID patients only. He worked in the hospital emergency room where during peak months the hospital was so overrun that he had to treat critically ill patients on chairs in the waiting room.
Monarrez says that in a limited hospital setting, many patients with moderate symptoms of COVID have been discharged home, without being tested. Many would later become seriously ill and die at home.
Many other patients at the hospital died before the return of positive test results. Their death certificates often cited “suspected COVID-19” or “atypical pneumonia” as the reason for death.
The government said a review of death certificates found more than 70% of the country’s “excess deaths” were likely cases of COVID. Since the start of the pandemic, new data has revealed that there have been 417,002 additional deaths in Mexico, which is the difference between deaths projected based on previous years and those reported.
“It’s outrageous,” said Laurie Ann Ximenez-Fyvie, head of the molecular genetics laboratory at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
“Mexico today is a country with one of the highest excess mortality rates per population in the world,” Ximenez-Fyvie told Al Jazeera.
“It’s the sum of doing everything wrong,” she said.
Since the pandemic began to spread rapidly in Mexico over a year ago, the Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador sought to minimize the severity of the disease. Citing the need to protect the economy, he has not closed the country’s borders or issued nationwide lockdowns. He encouraged people to go to work and socialize. He also refused to wear a mask, even after contract the disease itself.
Medical experts say the country has kept the COVID testing rate low, limiting it to symptomatic cases of serious illness, which has contributed to low detection rates as well as the spread of the virus.
Experts add that the low screening rate and inaccurate death toll has prevented Mexicans from realizing the full impact of the disease on the country. He also encouraged people not to follow health guidelines, such as wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing.
Large-scale testing and an accurate death toll are important metrics to understanding the spread of the virus and crucial tools to respond to it, experts say. Testing is especially crucial because it allows infected patients to isolate themselves, making them less likely to infect others.
“It is very important to have an idea of the extent of the public problem that we have,” said Fernando Alarid Escudero, assistant professor at the Center for Research and Education in Economics (CIDE) in Mexico.
“The number previously reported was already terrible, and then you add on top of that 60%, it really shows the terrible situation we find ourselves in,” Alarid Escudero told Al Jazeera.
He added that it was also missing detailed information such as ages, locations and dates on the spread of spreads and vaccination rates, which are essential for making accurate scientific predictions.
According to data compiled by Our World in Data, 5.4% of the Mexican population has been vaccinated so far.
Alarid Escudero said the low vaccination rate means Mexico could see another wave of COVID-19 infections and deaths in the coming weeks, especially given Semana Santa, or Holy Week which began on Sunday. , during which Mexicans typically travel for vacations and to visit friends and relatives.