MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s top coronavirus official said Sunday that final data on the death toll from COVID-19 will not be available for “a few years”.
The statement by Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell is likely to revive the debate over the death toll in Mexico, which is currently the fourth highest in the world at 76,430.
“When will the final statistics on deaths from COVID-19 be available? Certainly a few years after the first year of the pandemic, ”López-Gatell said, adding that the work would be left to the country’s statistical institute.
Officials in the past have acknowledged that the number is a significant undercount as it only includes those who almost always died in a hospital after testing positive. Mexico does very few tests and many people die without a test.
However, the Mexican government has avoided revising the death toll up to reflect people who have died at home or have not been tested.
Some parts of the country like Mexico City have started doing their own recalculations. It found that “excessive deaths” likely caused by the coronavirus were at least twice the official figures.
The problem is of great concern in Mexico, as President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has frequently compared Mexico’s death rates with those of other countries in an attempt to convince the public that his government is not doing a bad job in dealing with the pandemic. However, many other countries have tried to adjust the official numbers to take into account the surge in deaths that coincide with the virus outbreak.
But López-Gatell doubted on Sunday whether the number was important or whether it could really be measured.
Describing the final death toll as “one of those technical details”, he said the pandemic “cannot be measured”.