MEXICO – The death toll from COVID-19 is at the center of the controversy in Mexico.
The authorities have admitted that there is an underreporting of deaths but they avoid giving estimates, while some investigations have indicated that the deceased in the capital tripled the official data.
So far, the country has accumulated 6,989 deaths and more than 62,527 infected with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 disease, with Mexico City being the red focus of the pandemic, with 16,758 confirmed cases and 1,754 deaths.
HOW ARE OFFICIAL FIGURES COUNTED?
The death data updated daily by the federal government considers cases of COVID-19 those that could be confirmed by the diagnostic laboratory test.
However, in the guidelines issued for medical personnel to fill out death certificates, it is possible to indicate the “probable” cause of COVID-19 if the patient coincided with the symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath), but had not been managed to test him.
Current conditions make it impossible to open the Mexican capital.
Mexico is the OECD country with the fewest tests, since the authorities decided to focus their efforts on serious cases that reach hospitals instead of studying the entire population.
This has meant that the official percentage of people who die is high, at 9%. “If we only confirm with tests the most serious cases, naturally the lethality has to be high,” said Dr. Malaquías López, professor of Public Health at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).
But it has also raised the question of how to count people who died at home or came to the hospital too late.
IS THERE A SUB-REGISTRY OF THE DEAD?
On May 8, various international newspapers such as The New York Times published in different reports that the actual number of deaths is much higher than the official figure in Mexico.
Given this, the undersecretary of Prevention and Health Promotion, Hugo López-Gatell, official in charge of fighting the pandemic, admitted that there are patients who arrive so seriously at the hospital that they die without passing the test.
Therefore, “they have had the suggestive clinical conditions of COVID but are not registered as COVID.”
Jazive Pérez has the information.
He explained that these deaths are studied a posteriori by a scientific committee that can determine that the death was due to coronavirus and therefore, little by little, they will be added to the statistics.
The official does not give greater importance to this under-registration, since he considers that having the total number of deaths in real time is not a necessary data to design medical care.
On the other hand, there may be doctors who, despite the directive of the federal government, do not put the probable death by COVID-19 in the death certificate.
“There have been strong discussions in hospitals because there are those who have the criterion of ‘if I do not have a positive test, how am I going to assert in the certificate that the death was due to COVID?'” Explained Dr. Malaquías López.
HOW MANY DEAD ARE THERE REALLY?
The government has revealed that to date there are 814 suspected deaths in the country from which a sample could be extracted that is pending laboratory confirmation.
However, it has not released any estimates of people who died with COVID-19 symptoms without being tested.
Various hospitals in Mexico City are full, even when authorities say there are empty beds.
An investigation by the Mexican NGO Against Corruption and Impunity (MCC) revealed on Monday that between March 18 and May 12 there were only in Mexico City at least 4,577 death certificates with the coronavirus as a proven or probable cause.
Between those dates, the official data of confirmed deceased in the capital was 937.
“Most of the records, 3,209, were of deaths due to a probable coronavirus but that could not be confirmed, so the underreporting reaches three times that reported by official data,” said Samuel Adam, MCCI researcher.
Although the authorities have not denied that they have fewer registered cases than there are, for Adam this investigation “allows us to see a little more the dimension of the phenomenon.”
For his part, Dr. López said that in the Mexican capital “the problem” of a low estimate of deaths has been made visible, but pointed out that in the rest of the country the phenomenon should be greater given that there are fewer resources.
HOW TO CORRECT THESE DATA?
To stem the controversy, the mayor of Mexico City, Claudia Sheinbaum, of the same political color as the federal government, announced on May 13 the creation of a commission of independent scientists that will review the suspected deaths.
At least twenty people broke into an Ecatepec hospital to find out information about the health of their relatives admitted by COVID-19.
Sheinbaum has openly said that there are more deaths than confirmed and that the data will be released in due course when they have been reviewed.
Efe asked for an interview with the commission of scientists without at the moment having received a positive response to the request from the authorities.
Dr. López noted that “the criteria for correcting the numerators have not been released” and predicted that defining some deaths can be very difficult for the commission.
“For example, I don’t know what they would do if a person had a heart attack. It may be related to the COVID infection because it causes metabolic overload. But in turn, only one person with a circulatory obstruction has a heart attack,” he explained.
For his part, Adam pointed out that the death certificates of the civil registry can no longer be modified without the authorization of a judge.
“The committees will have to determine and know if they will have the power to change the death certificates because it is a process that only the Judiciary could carry out,” he said.