Civic group: Mexico City virus deaths 3 times those reported

Regional News

A barrel organ player wearing a face shield as a precaution against the spread of the new coronavirus, hopes for donations in Mexico City, Saturday, May 16, 2020. (AP Photo/Christian Palma)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — A registry of death certificates in Mexico City suggests there were 4,577 cases where doctors mentioned coronavirus or COVID-19 as a possible or probable cause of death, more than three times the official death toll in the city.

The federal government acknowledges only 1,332 confirmed deaths in Mexico City since the pandemic began, less than a third as many as the investigation revealed.

The anti-corruption group Mexicans Against Corruption said in a report Monday that it got access to a database of death certificates issued in Mexico City between March 18 and May 12. It showed that in explanatory notes attached to 4,577 death certificates, doctors included the words “SARS,” “COV2,” “COV,” “Covid 19,” or “new coronavirus.”

The virus’ technical name is SARS-CoV-2. The notes the group counted included terms like “suspected,” “probable”, or “possible” role of the virus in the deaths. In 3,209 of the certificates, it was listed as a suspected contributing factor along with other causes of death, like pneumonia, respiratory failure, septic shock or multiple organ failure.

Only 323 certificates list confirmed coronavirus as a cause of death; 1,045 other death certificates listed COVID-19 but didn’t specify if it was suspected or confirmed.

The group did not say how it accessed the database, which was kept by local courts. But it noted that official counts showed only 1,060 coronavirus deaths during that March 18-May 12 period.

Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum has acknowledged there are more deaths than have officially been reported, and has said a special commission will review the death figures. Her office did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the new report.

Mexico performs relatively few tests; only about 150,000 have been carried out so far in a nation of about 125 million people. Federal officials acknowledge some victims have died without being tested and have pledged that cases where death certificates mention coronavirus as a possible or probable cause of death would eventually be added to official death tolls. But they have suggested those “suspected” cases were only about a tenth of test-confirmed deaths.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has reacted angrily to new reports in the past that claimed Mexico was undercounting its deaths on the federal level, and Monday’s report is unlikely to please him. It comes from a group that he has criticized in the past for allegedly opposing his policies and representing business interests, and in the past he has mockingly called the group “Mexicans For Corruption”.

The group’s founder is Claudio X. Gonzalez, a lawyer, activist and the son of a prominent business magnate.

Mexico City, with about 9 million residents, has been the worst hit part of the country. The additional 3,245 deaths in Mexico City, if they are confirmed or added to official counts, would push the national death toll from the 5,332 reported by federal officials Monday to 8,577.

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