Covid-19 was listed as the confirmed, suspected or possible cause of death on 4,577 death certificates issued in Mexico City between March 18 and May 12, according to an anti-graft group, a figure more than four times higher than the number of coronavirus fatalities reported by authorities in the period.
Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity (MCCI) said in a report Monday that it gained access to a database of death certificates issued in the capital during the eight-week period.
Attached to 4,577 of them were notes about the cause of death which mentioned SARS-CoV-2 – the technical name of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 – COV, Covid-19, new coronavirus, coronavirus or NCOV, MCCI said.
The group said that Covid-19 was listed as the suspected or possible cause of death on 3,209 certificates. Other causes of death including pneumonia, respiratory failure, septic shock and multiple organ failure were listed on the same certificates.
MCCI said that 1,045 death certificates listed Covid-19 as a cause without specifying whether the fatality was suspected or confirmed to have been caused by the disease, while 323 certificates said that the new coronavirus was confirmed to have caused the death.
Until May 12, Mexico City and federal authorities had only reported 937 confirmed Covid-19 deaths in the capital, one-fifth the number indicated by the death certificates.
By the same date, the authorities had reported an additional 123 deaths in Mexico City that were suspected to have been caused by the disease but the combined figure of 1,060 represents less than a quarter of the deaths to which the MCCI report refers.
If all of the suspected and confirmed Covid-19 fatalities listed on the Mexico City death certificates were added to the nationwide death toll, the number would increase to almost 9,000, nearly 70% higher than the 5,332 confirmed deaths reported by the Health Ministry on Monday.
The Associated Press said that Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum didn’t respond to requests for comments about the MCCI report but she posted a table to Twitter early on Tuesday that showed that there have been 1,381 confirmed coronavirus fatalities in the capital. She has previously denied that the Mexico City death figures published by the federal government are incorrect but last week established a committee to analyze coronavirus fatalities in the capital.
The MCCI report was published 10 days after a New York Times report that claimed there have been three times as many Covid-19 fatalities in the capital than the federal government has publicly acknowledged and five days after a Sky News report that claimed that the coronavirus death toll in Mexico City is five times higher than official data shows.
The Wall Street Journal also published a report that said that the federal government is underreporting deaths because “many patients aren’t being tested for the virus, even if they die.”
In its report, MCCI published extracts from some of the death certificates it saw and asserted that, “in the same way as the foreign press said,” the certificates indicate an underreporting of coronavirus-related deaths.
Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell, the federal government’s coronavirus point man, rejected the foreign media reports in a video message on May 9 and explained that a committee of medical specialists analyzes cases in which suspected Covid-19 patients die without being tested.
If the committee determines that there is sufficient evidence to conclude that a death was caused by Covid-19, the fatality is added to the official tally. However, it is unclear how long the process takes.
The foreign media reports have angered President López Obrador, who singled out the Times as lacking ethics. The president also views MCCI with disdain, and has accused the group of being for rather than against corruption.
Founded by Claudio X. Gonzaléz, a lawyer, activist and son of a business magnate and outspoken critic of López Obrador, MCCI has been highly critical of the federal government, accusing it of corruption and joining a collective that launched legal action against its airport project north of Mexico City.