Coronavirus
Seniors line up for vaccination in Mexico City. Seniors line up for vaccination in Mexico City.

Official count is 2 million coronavirus cases but university says it’s at least 17 million

UNAM estimates there could have been as many as 53 million

Mexico’s real coronavirus case tally is at least nine times higher than the total officially reported and could be up to 26 times higher, according to National Autonomous University (UNAM) estimates.

The official accumulated case tally rose to 2.02 million on Thursday but according to estimates on the UNAM Covid-19 Geographic Information Platform, there have been a minimum of 17.81 million cases since the virus was first detected here almost a year ago and a maximum of 53.43 million.

The minimum estimate assumes a fatality rate of 1% and that the official Covid-19 death toll – 178,108 as of Thursday – includes all fatalities from the infectious disease.

The maximum estimate assumes a fatality rate of 0.5% and that there have really been 1.5 Covid-19 deaths for every one officially registered.

Mexico’s case tally is widely considered a significant undercount because of the low Covid-19 testing rate. The health system has focused on testing people with serious symptoms of the disease, meaning that the vast majority of mild and asymptomatic cases don’t show up in official statistics.

The Health Ministry acknowledges that many cases go undetected and said early in the pandemic that its epidemiological surveillance system suggested that there were about eight undetected cases for each reported one.

However, for several months its case number estimates have been only slightly higher than the official tally. The Health Ministry currently estimates that there have been just under 2.22 million cases since the start of the pandemic, a figure only 1.1 times, or 10%, higher than the official tally.

Malaquías López, a public health professor at UNAM and spokesperson for the university’s Covid-19 commission, said the ministry’s estimated case numbers don’t square with a serological testing survey conducted between August and November last year that found that about a quarter of the population had developed antibodies against the coronavirus as a result of having it.

The National Institute of Public Health estimated that about 31 million Mexicans had been infected with the virus, a number that could have risen significantly given that December and January were the two worst months of the pandemic.

UNAM’s active case estimates are also much higher than those of the Health Ministry. The university estimates that there are currently a minimum of 455,577 active cases and a maximum of 1.36 million.

According to the Health Ministry, there are just 56,981 active cases, a figure that has decreased significantly this month after rising above 110,000 in late January.

UNAM’s figures suggest that the coronavirus is still running rampant, although health authorities contend that the situation has improved considerably compared to January, and declining hospital occupancy levels back up that claim.

But while the average number of cases reported daily in the first 18 days of February declined 38% compared to the average in January, average daily Covid-19 deaths increased 3% to 1,087, evidence that Mexico is still paying a heavy price for the Christmas-New Year’s gatherings and parties that fueled the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Mexico’s vaccination efforts are gathering speed after shipments of AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines arrived early this week. As of Thursday night, almost 1.32 million vaccine doses had been administered, mainly to health workers and seniors.

Mexico News Daily 

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