Peru said its Covid-19 death toll is actually almost three times as high as it had officially counted until now. The new figure would rank Peru as one of the world’s hardest-hit countries relative to its population.
The new death toll is estimated at 180,764 through May 22, according to a report released on Monday by cabinet ministers and health officials in Lima, the capital. That is almost triple the official death toll of about 68,000. President Francisco Sagasti is expected to endorse the new death estimate.
The health minister, Oscar Ugarte, said the government would start publishing more accurate daily tallies of cases and deaths based on new guidelines laid out in the report.
“This is a new tool” to help us fight the pandemic, Mr. Ugarte said, adding that the new estimate “requires a modification” of all the current policies aimed at controlling the spread of the virus.
Peru has struggled to contain the coronavirus since the pandemic began, and its official death toll before the revised estimate was already the ninth-highest per capita in the world. As early as last June, it was clear that far more deaths were occurring in Peru than would be expected in a normal year, and the gap was much larger than the number of deaths officially attributed to Covid-19, according to New York Times data. That was a warning sign to experts that Covid deaths were being undercounted.
The change in Peru’s death toll was announced a week before the second round of the country’s presidential election, scheduled for June 6.
The World Health Organization said earlier this month that deaths from Covid-19 globally were probably much higher than had been recorded.
South America is now the continent where the virus is spreading fastest, with five nations among the top 10 globally for new cases reported per 100,000 population.