Mexico Passes 100,000 Covid Deaths, Actual Toll Much Higher

Mexico became the fourth country in the world to pass the mark of 100,000 deaths from the novel coronavirus, with health authorities acknowledging that the toll is probably magnitudes higher.

With 576 new Covid-19 deaths reported late Thursday, some 100,104 Mexicans have succumbed to the respiratory disease. The North American country added another 4,472 cases for a total 1,019,543.

Mexico has been plagued by insufficient testing throughout the pandemic, leading to a positivity rate that’s stood around 40% — among the highest in the world. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was slow to impose lockdowns and quick to lift restrictions, saying Mexicans will know how to take care of themselves to prevent infection and spreading.

In late October, the government said that193,170 more people had died through September compared with an average of recent years. While those excess deaths include people who died from other causes, an unknown portion of them had Covid and were never tested or died at home.

Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez Gatell, who’s running the country’s response to the pandemic, has repeatedly defended Mexico’s response to the illness, reiterating that dealing with the pandemic requires a long-term strategy.

Lopez Obrador on Friday defended his government’s policies and criticized media coverage of the virus in Mexico.

“Our adversaries, from the beginning, wanted to use the misfortune of the Mexican people from this pandemic to blame us,” he said at his daily morning press conference. “They don’t take into account that we inherited a health system that was totally destroyed.”

Officials in Mexico also have to balance public health with a large vulnerable population that must work to meet basic needs, and the government did not roll out a large stimulus package to support them.

After shuttering some factories and businesses earlier in the year, much of Mexico’s economic activity is returning to normal despite recent outbreaks in states bordering the U.S. like Chihuahua, which has been posting record days for new infections. The economy is expected to contract about 10% this year, according to the median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg.

Mexico has kept its airports open throughout the year and Lopez Obrador has continued to travel the country and visit small towns without wearing a mask.Weddings of as many as 700 people have resumed again in parts of Mexico and become superspreader events.

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Hospital occupancy has edged upward in recent weeks. In the nation’s capital of Mexico City, 53% of beds with ventilators were occupied as of Thursday, up from 46% at the beginning of November. Seven states, including northern states of Durango, Chihuahua and Nuevo Leon as well as the capital, have at least half of their general Covid-19 hospital beds occupied, according to the Health Ministry data.

The country has implemented a system that restricts economic and social activity based on hospital occupancy. Durango and Chihuahua are the only states at the maximum alert level while Mexico City has remained a notch below that at high alert.

— With assistance by Justin Villamil

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