New coronavirus case numbers in Mexico could be higher than 130,000 per day, according to a University of Oxford researcher, a figure more than 20 times the current average.
Max Roser, founder and editor of the Oxford University website Our World in Data, said on Twitter that a very low testing rate in Mexico – only about one in 100 people have been tested so far – could be vastly concealing the true extent of the coronavirus outbreak.
“Mexico confirms currently 5,500 cases per day … but testing is very inadequate, the positive rate of Mexico is 57%. So how many cases does Mexico actually have every day? Different models suggest more than 130,000,” he wrote.
A new report published on the Our World in Data site looks at four epidemiological models which aim to estimate the true number of coronavirus infections in different countries around the world.
A model developed by the Imperial College London currently shows a mean estimate of just under 150,000 new cases per day in Mexico while one developed by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation shows just over 171,500 per day.
A model developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology-trained data scientist Youyang Gu currently shows a mean estimate of just under 135,000 cases per day in Mexico while one developed by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine shows a median estimate of just over 104,400 new cases per day.
All four models estimate that daily case numbers are well above those reported by the Federal Health Ministry, which registers data provided by state health authorities.
The highest number of cases reported on a single day since the start of the pandemic was 9,556 on August 1 but health officials have highlighted that new case numbers have declined in recent weeks.
However, some experts claim that the reduction in case numbers could be linked to a recent drop-off in testing, an assertion rejected by Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell, Mexico’s coronavirus czar.
New case numbers remained comparatively low on Monday with 3,541 reported by the Health Ministry. Mexico’s accumulated case tally now stands at 563,705, the seventh highest total in the world.
There are 26,755 active cases while the results of 77,198 Covid-19 tests are not yet known.
The Health Ministry also reported 320 additional Covid-19 fatalities on Monday, lifting the official death toll to 60,800. Director of Epidemiology José Luis Alomía said that Covid-19 deaths decreased 56% between August 9 and 15 compared to the previous week.
Several independent studies claim that Mexico is vastly underestimating its Covid-19 death toll but President López Obrador said Monday that hiding fatalities from the infectious disease is impossible.
“There are things that cannot be hidden. Unfortunately, the deceased cannot be hidden. … The hardest and most regrettable fact is the number of deaths. How can that be hidden?” he said.
The president’s assertion, however, appears to ignore evidence that some suspected Covid-19 deaths have occurred without the patient being tested and have consequently been officially attributed to atypical pneumonia or similar. As a result, they have not been included in the official Covid-19 death toll.
López Obrador also said Monday that his administration has implemented a “very good strategy” to combat the pandemic even though it has been widely criticized for not testing more widely for the coronavirus and not enforcing a nationwide lockdown.
He chided the media for reporting that Mexico’s death toll had passed the “catastrophic” worst-case scenario of 60,000 cited by López-Gatell in early June.
“On the weekend, our adversaries, the conservative media, dedicated themselves [to reporting] two things: the ‘catastrophic scenario,’ a very strong and painful thing – they were like a choir [singing from the same hymn sheet]. The other thing they repeated was the [lack of] tests,” López Obrador said.
The president charged that it was in poor taste to make comparisons between the Covid-19 death tolls of different countries but nevertheless pointed out (correctly) that Mexico’s mortality rate – the number of deaths per 100,000 inhabitants – is lower than the rates of the United States, Brazil, Chile, England and Italy.
“The [government’s] strategy has worked well but this is a terrible pandemic that has affected us a lot because of [the high prevalence] of chronic diseases,” López Obrador added, echoing assertions by health officials that Mexico’s high rates of hypertension, diabetes and obesity have made Covid-19 more lethal here than in other countries around the world.