Peru has announced a sharp increase in its COVID-19 number of victims, giving the South American nation the worst coronavirus-related per capita mortality rate in the world.
In an announcement at the presidential palace on Monday, the country said more than 180,000 people had died since the start of the pandemic, based on previous data indicating that 69,342 Peruvians had died from the coronavirus.
The new toll includes deaths recorded between March 2020 and May 22 this year.
“What is being said is that a significant number of deaths were not classified as caused by COVID-19,” said Health Minister Oscar Ugarte, adding that the criteria for assigning the new coronavirus had changed. as the cause of death.
Ugarte said previously only those who “had a positive diagnostic test” were considered to have died from the virus, but other criteria have since been added.
Mateo Prochazka, one of the researchers in a working group tasked with analyzing and updating the number of coronavirus deaths in Peru, said the team used four different methods to determine the cause of death.
“The first criterion is the one that has the most certainty, the virological one, in the case of people who have a positive test. The second is the quick test, ”Prochazka said.
“We also used serological drugs [tests] because, at the beginning of the pandemic, this system was used a lot, ”he said.
“Then there are radiological and epidemiological [tests], through which there is no evidence, but compatible symptoms are found, “he said.” We felt they should be noticed. “
Most cases per capita
According to data from Johns Hopkins University, however, according to the population, the number of deaths per capita in Peru is now the highest in the world and more than double that of Brazil.
Previously, Hungary had the highest per capita coronavirus mortality rate, approximately 300 per 100,000 people. With its updated death toll, Peru already has more than 500 deaths per 100,000 people.
Questions about the death toll in Peru surfaced shortly after the pandemic began.
Scenes of cemeteries filling up with new burials and hospitals buying refrigerated containers to act as makeshift morgues suggested the situation was much worse than official data showed.
“We believe it is our duty to make this updated information public,” Peruvian Prime Minister Violeta Bermudez said during Monday’s press conference.
Peru’s updated figures match the so-called “excess deaths” figures, which researchers have used in Peru and other countries to measure possible undiscounts.
Excess deaths are calculated by comparing the total number of deaths over a period of time and the same pre-pandemic period.
Dr. Julio Ponce, an epidemiologist based in Brazil, told Al Jazeera that excess mortality is one of the ways to measure COVID-19 toll when evidence is not available.
“When you don’t have access to the evidence, you shouldn’t just count the people who tested positive and eventually died of COVID, because of course, a large number of people won’t be counted in those numbers,” Ponce said. .
He added that if a country cannot accurately count the number of cases and deaths of COVID-19, it will not be able to track where the pandemic is going.