Tuesday, June 18, 2024

As death toll hits 200,000, health minister criticizes media for reporting it

As Mexico’s official Covid-19 death toll rose above 200,000 on Thursday, Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell criticized the media for focusing on reporting “the saddest side of the epidemic.”

Speaking at the Health Ministry’s Thursday night coronavirus press briefing after it was announced that the official death toll had increased to 200,211 from 199,627 a day earlier, López-Gatell said he wouldn’t be surprised if major newspapers splashed the 200,000 figure on their front pages.

The coronavirus point man asserted that the media has a “fondness for round numbers,” noting that there was prominent coverage of the death toll when it reached milestones such as 50,000 and 100,000. He also claimed that the media has a penchant for concentrating on the “the saddest side of the epidemic.”

This “obsession” is due to several reasons, López-Gatell said, citing media outlets’ desire for higher profits and higher share prices.

The deputy minister also claimed the media, in reporting on Covid-19 deaths, has appropriated the grief, pain and sadness of people who have lost loved ones to the disease.

lopez gatell
The coronavirus point man was wearing a face mask when he arrived at Thursday’s press conference, though not in the recommended manner.

He said it appeared that media outlets were the “representatives” of people who have lost family members but added:

“I’m not sure that 200,000 families have conferred this capacity of representation to these media outlets … that, as the president has pointed out, represent different economic and political interest groups that are against the changes that are occurring in this stage of the government.”

López-Gatell also took aim at the media for not providing greater context about Covid-19 deaths in Mexico. Social and economic inequality, poverty and the high prevalence of chronic diseases are factors in the high death toll but are not sufficiently reported, he said.

“Let’s see … if these newspapers, Reforma, El Universal, Excélsiór, and the corporate radio stations … speak about all these phenomena” when reporting on the death toll exceeding 200,000, López-Gatell said.

The deputy minister said it would be desirable that nobody lost their life to Covid-19 but added that pandemics are part of the reality of the world and the human experience.

As it turned out, his prediction was correct. Media outlets did indeed announce that the 200,000 mark had been passed.

Meanwhile, Mexico’s 200,00th Covid-19 death came exactly one year and one week after the country’s first fatality of the pandemic was reported. That means that an average of more than 530 fatalities per day were reported since the middle of March in 2020.

Mexico’s death toll, officially the third highest in the world behind those of the United States and Brazil, is widely believed to be much higher due to the extremely low testing rate.

Based on official figures, almost 20% of the deaths occurred in Mexico City, about 11% were recorded in neighboring México state and 5.5% occurred in Jalisco.

The death tolls of those states, combined with those of Puebla, Guanajuato and Nuevo León – which rank fourth to sixth for total fatalities – account for more than half of the deaths recorded in Mexico since the start of the pandemic.

The average number of daily deaths reported across the country in the first 25 days of March was 580, a 40% decline compared to February and a 46% reduction compared to January, which was the worst month for both fatalities and cases.

New reported infections have also declined significantly this month but there are fears that Mexico could see a third wave of the coronavirus, which authorities say could be triggered by gatherings, parties and travel over the Easter vacation period.

Mexico’s accumulated case tally is currently 2.21 million, the 13th highest total in the world.

It is unlikely that vaccination has contributed in any significant way to the slow the spread of the virus and the decline in deaths this month because only about 4% of the population has so far received a shot.

Source: El Universal (sp) 

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