Mexico grossly underestimating virus death toll, studies say


Based on the data of various analysts and investigators, the British newspaper The Financial Times assure that a mortuary underreporting shows that there are more deaths from COVID-19

The British newspaper Financial Times assured that according to a compilation of independent studies, cataloged as “underreporting mortuary”, the existence of more deaths by COVID-19 in Mexico than reported by the authorities was revealed.

One of the studies taken into account by the European newspaper was the one carried out independently by Mario Romero and Laurianne Despeghel.

According to Romero and Despeghel, there are 3.5 more deaths in the country than reported by health authorities, led by the epidemiologist, Hugo López-Gatell.

Analysts mention that there was an excess of 22 thousand 705 fatal victims in the country’s capital towards the end of June, although in Mexico City there are only 5 thousand 711 deaths.

Until the cutoff of July 4 in the evening, in Mexico there were 252 thousand 165 confirmed cases, 26 thousand 075 confirmed active and 74 thousand 387 suspects by COVID-19.

There have been 308 thousand 439 negative cases, 30 thousand 366 confirmed deaths, 2 thousand 121 suspicious deaths and 634 thousand 991 people were studied.

According to the research of the Mexican professor, specialized in artificial intelligence at the University of Berlin, Raúl Rojas, in Mexico there are 6 million infected and 78 thousand people would have died from the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

Rojas was interviewed by the Financial Times, to whom he mentioned that it seems incredible that they hide the figures to deny the seriousness of the situation.

“I find it incredible that instead of giving numbers, they’re hiding them to conceal the seriousness of the situation,” he said.

More than half the world’s average daily deaths from the virus are now in Latin America, making it one of the global centres for Covid-19. Brazil has the world’s highest official number of daily deaths, but with an average of 4.7 new deaths per 1m people in the last week, Mexico and Brazil are neck and neck in proportion to population.

Mexico is only counting cases and deaths that have been confirmed by a laboratory — and only 610,495 people have been tested. In part because of the low level of testing, some 67 percent of tests come back positive — an indication that many more cases are being missed.

A patient is treated with oxygen in a Covid-19 hospital in Naucalpan

Hugo López-Gatell, the health under-secretary, and coronavirus tsar, said mass testing would be a waste of time and money, and the World Health Organisation’s appeal to “test, test, test” had been understood in a “deformed, erroneous and distorted” way.

But without robust testing and tracking, experts fear Mexico will struggle to tame any new outbreaks as Latin America’s second-biggest economy reopens.

Dr López-Gatell acknowledged in an interview with the Washington Post that total deaths in Mexico city from March to May were triple the usual level, according to an official but as yet unpublished study. The FT’s requests for an interview have not been granted.

Until that study is published, or official mortality data is released next year, the closest estimates available come from Mr. Romero, a software developer and data analyst, and Ms. Despeghel, a consultant in economics.

A chart showing that Mexico’s testing has been very limited, sending its test positivity rate soaring

They tallied the number of death certificates issued in Mexico City since the start of the pandemic, regardless of the cause of death, and found a 126 percent increase in the past three months compared with the average for the same period from 2016-18. Official data on total deaths in 2019 is not yet available.

According to their latest count, published in news magazine Nexos on July 3, there were 22,705 excess deaths in the capital by the end of June. Officially, Mexico City has confirmed 6,642 deaths from coronavirus.

“In the last week, we had 104 percent excess mortality — twice as many people than normal died in Mexico City,” said Ms. Despeghel. That compared with as much as 219 percent five weeks ago. “It’s coming down, but it’s still high.”

In Mexico City, excess deaths have risen more slowly than in some cities, such as New York, but “here it’s taking longer to taper”, said Mr. Romero.

A chart showing that mortality rates have soared in urban Latin America, with overall excess deaths often much higher than reported Covid-19 deaths

Since countries’ methodologies for reporting Covid-19 fatalities differ widely. David Spiegelhalter, professor of the public understanding of risk at Cambridge University in the UK, describes tracking excess deaths as “the only unbiased comparison you can make between different countries”.

Mr. López Obrador, who initially minimized the risk from Covid-19 and refuses to wear a face mask, now insists Mexico is past the worst — even as the number of cases keeps rising.

Officials have denied hiding the figures, but data has been uploaded to civil registry websites slowly and in the state of Mexico a site publishing similar data was taken down altogether, Ms Despeghel and Mr Romero said.

In his study, Prof Rojas noticed that official national statistics in June attributed 40 percent more deaths to May than had been reported at the time. To correct for administrative delays, he calculated that Mexico’s death toll needed to be multiplied by 1.4.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador insists Mexico is past the worst © Fernando Llano/AP Although in the capital, there appear to be at least three times more deaths than usual, he used the conservative assumption that nationwide figures were under-reported by 50 percent.

Correcting both for delays in reporting and under-registration, that implied 77,753 deaths in the whole country, he said. Assuming a 2 percent mortality rate, which meant as many as 6m infections.

Mr. Romero and Ms. Despeghel’s findings chime with a separate analysis of death certificates from May by Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity (MCCI), a think-tank. It found nearly four times more deaths in the capital attributed to coronavirus than in official data.

Two other studies, tracking calls to emergency services, also challenge the official count. In Tijuana, UCLA and Mexican academics with the Red Cross found 195 excess out-of-hospital deaths, between mid-April and mid-May, versus eight in the official tally.

In Mexico City, Quinto Elemento Lab, an investigative journalism non-profit body, found that 1,179 people had died at home or outside hospitals of coronavirus-linked conditions between March 23 and May 27, while just 329 were reported officially.

At a news conference on Thursday night, Dr López-Gatell acknowledged the same situation with excess deaths “is happening all over the country . . . We’re not hiding anything”.

He has already said that official data showed that infections “hit a peak then unfortunately continued”, exceeding official predictions in several cities. He now says the pandemic could last until October.


The Mazatlan Post