Mexico, the most populous country in the Spanish-speaking world, has registered 100,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths within days of passing the grim milestone of one million infections, official data showed on Thursday.
Mexico’s official death toll from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, is among the highest worldwide, and in the Americas lags only behind the United States and Brazil.
“Mexican society had no prior antecedent of an acute, infectious disease that could cause such rapid spread and affect the lives of so many,” Hugo Lopez-Gatell, the public face of the government’s efforts to contain the virus, told reporters on Thursday evening.
With a population of about 125 million, Mexico accounts for over 7% of confirmed deaths globally, according to a Reuters tally.
Its mortality rate of nearly 10% is higher than any other country that has reported more than a million cases, and government officials acknowledge that the count almost certainly reflects only a fraction of the real death toll.
Mexico’s outbreak has likely been exacerbated by chronically underfunded public hospitals as well as a large informal economy in which millions have to leave home each day to earn a living.
From the start of the pandemic, the government has eschewed taking on debt to fund bailouts for businesses or cash payments for workers – a different approach from many other nations that sought to cushion the economic blow.
The health ministry reported 576 new deaths on Thursday, bringing the toll to 100,104. Nearly two-thirds of the dead are men, official data show. The ministry’s own figures list more than 15,000 additional “suspected” deaths.
The average age of the COVID-19 fatalities is 64.
Mexico City and its densely-packed suburbs – home to more than 20 million people – has been a hot spot for infections.
Laurie Ann Ximenez-Fyvie, a leading doctor with Mexico’s National Autonomous University, told local radio earlier on Thursday that the actual number of deaths in Mexico due to the pandemic is “easily” already over 200,000.
She sternly rebuked top Mexican public health officials who have at times suggested that the crisis is easing when even the official count shows the opposite.
“They continue not taking containment measures needed to bring this catastrophe under control,” she said.
Reporting by David Alire Garcia; Additional reporting by Dave Graham in Mexico City and Roshan Abraham in Bangalore; Editing by Grant McCool, Stephen Coates & Simon Cameron-Moore