Mexico's Covid death toll increases by more than 50% to 321,000 after government revises figures

Workers wearing full protection gear as they lower a coffin into a grave in an area of the San Rafael municipal cemetery in Mexico. Credit: AP

Mexico's Covid-19 death toll has increased to more than 321,000 after the government revised its figures - revealing it's 60% higher than previously reported.

The previous figure, which was officially confirmed as 201,429, had been undercounted due to the country's limited capacity for coronavirus testing and a significant number of deaths at home as hospitals were overwhelmed.

The revised toll places Mexico with the second highest number of Covid-related deaths in the world, after the US.

The government said the only way to develop a clear picture of the real impact of the Covid-19 pandemic was to review excess deaths and death certificates.

Workers ride their horses in the Valle de Chalco municipal cemetery on the outskirts of Mexico City. Credit: AP

The new report also confirms just how deadly Mexico's second wave in January was.

As of the end of December, excess death estimates suggested a total of about 220,000 deaths related to Covid-19 in Mexico. That number jumped by around 75,000 in just a month and a half.

Also suggestive in the government report were the overall number of "excess deaths" since the pandemic began, around 417,000.

Excess deaths are determined by comparing the deaths in a given year to those that would be expected based on data from previous years.

A woman eyes a syringe as she prepares to be inoculated with a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the Magdalena Contreras area. Credit: AP

A review of death certificates found around 70.5% of the excess deaths were Covid-19 related, often because it was listed on the certificates as a suspected or contributing cause of death.

But some experts have said Covid-19 may have contributed to many of the other excess deaths because many people couldn't get treatment for other diseases because hospitals were overwhelmed.

Former President Felipe Calderón tweeted on Saturday: "More than 400,000 Mexicans have died, above the average for previous years... probably the highest figure in the world."