Bodies in the ‘fridge’: Peru’s COVID death numbers triple after revision

Incongruence between scenes at cemeteries and official figures had raised eyebrows

In terms of COVID deaths, Peru has moved from position 12 to No 1.

Peru’s official COVID death estimates had always left health experts wondering. While there were reports of cemeteries overflowing with bodies, and hospitals using refrigerated containers as makeshift morgues for want of burial space, the official numbers had seemed relatively small.

Finally, on Monday, the South American nation sharply revised its official COVID mortality figures following a review, and tripled it from the earlier figure. Against 69,342 earlier, Peru’s official death toll now stands at 180,764.

The country’s population is around 32.6 million. It means about 500 people per 100,000 have died of the virus in the country, said a Reuters report. According to Johns Hopkins University data, Peru now has the highest COVID-linked death rate per capita. To make things worse, just over 3% of the population is vaccinated.

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Peruvian Prime Minister Violeta Bermúdez on Monday said at a press meet that her government was duty-bound to share the correct numbers. “(We) think it is (our) duty to make public this updated information,” she said, adding that the revision was carried out on the advice of local and global experts.

Change in criteria

The nation’s Health Minister Óscar Ugarte clarified that the difference rose from the classification. Tens of thousands of deaths that had been marked as non-COVID ones were reclassified as COVID-led ones during the revision, he said. The very criteria for assigning COVID as cause-of-death were altered.

Also read: India’s COVID deaths estimated at thrice of what govt is telling us: IHME

In the ‘infamous’ COVID death ranking, Peru has now moved from position 12 to No 1. It is followed by Hungary, which as reported 300 COVID deaths per 100,000 people. After these come the Czech Republic, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

According to available data, these are the countries with most COVID deaths per 100,000 people.

  1. Peru
  2. Hungary
  3. Czechia
  4. Bosnia and Herzegovina
  5. San Marino
  6. North Macedonia
  7. Montenegro
  8. Bulgaria
  9. Moldova
  10. Slovakia
  11. Brazil
  12. Belgium
  13. Slovenia
  14. Italy
  15. Croatia
  16. Poland
  17. United Kingdom
  18. United States
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