Mexico nears 70,000 official COVID-19 deaths, but toll likely far higher

FILE PHOTO: A healthcare worker wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) instructs a woman before taking a sample for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test at the Lazaro Cardenas Park in Mexico City, Mexico September 1, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Romero/File Photo

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – The confirmed coronavirus death toll in Mexico is primed to hit 70,000 when official data is released on Friday, a grim milestone for a country among those most affected by the pandemic.

Making matters worse, excess mortality data from mid-March through early August indicates that the total number of deaths beyond the official count is likely tens of thousands higher.

The spread of the virus has ravaged an already ailing economy, which is now seen contracting by up to 13% this year, the deepest recession since the 1930’s-era Great Depression.

On Thursday, the health ministry announced that 652,364 infections and 69,649 deaths have been attributed to the strain of the coronavirus that was first detected late last year in China.

Based on official data, Mexico is the nation with the fourth highest number of deaths globally, and the 13th highest on a per capita basis, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

But earlier this month, the health ministry said it recorded more than 120,000 “extra” deaths from mid-March through August 1. The measure compares mortality figures this year with a four-year average from 2015 to 2018.

Brazil remains No. 1 in Latin America, the region with the most infections globally, for both confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths. It has posted a total of 4.2 million infections and more than 128,000 deaths so far.

In a sliver of good news, the rate of new cases in Peru, Colombia and Mexico has fallen slightly in recent weeks.

Overall, more than 900,000 people have died worldwide from the pandemic, with the deadliest outbreaks in the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico.

(Reporting by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Tom Brown)

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