Health officials have warned that the country’s reported 424,637 cases — making them sixth globally — is not an accurate account of the coronavirus situation, due to shortages of testing and underreporting of the virus.
Mexican Health Secretary Hugo López-Gatell has reportedly downplayed the severity of the coronavirus pandemic and opted for lighter tactics and less widespread testing. Ten state governors called for his resignation Friday, according to the BBC.
Lopez-Gatell reportedly blamed complexities surrounding testing as justification for the lack of confirmed cases.
In response to the health secretary’s claims, a think tank, Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity (MACCIH), started an investigation into the number of death certificates versus the number of reported deaths from coronavirus.
They found that between March 18 and May 12, the number of reported coronavirus deaths was three times less than the number of suspected coronavirus-related fatalities in Mexico City alone.
The investigation found that in more than 3,000 records of deceased individuals, COVID-19 was listed as the “probable,” “possible” or “suspected” cause of death — meaning the number of reported coronavirus cases and deaths could be as many as three times the number of confirmed cases.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has also faced criticism for his initial lackadaisical stance on the coronavirus pandemic.
The government was slow to decentralize testing sites, preventing private companies and states from providing their own testing. Thousands of new cases have popped up in private medical centers, which are not being reported in the federal system, a report by Reuters showed in mid-June.
Obrador joined the list of leaders who have refused to wear a mask — including Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has tested positive for COVID-19 — and President Trump, though the U.S. president started publicly wearing a mask and encourage the use of masks in July.
“You know when I’m going to put on a mask? When there is no corruption. Then I’ll put on a mask and I’ll stop talking,” the Guardian said Obrador told reporters Friday.
Coronavirus cases around the world have reached almost 17.7 million with nearly 700,000 deaths.
The U.S. has reported the most cases in the world, with 4.6 million, and 154,000 deaths. Brazil has the second-highest number of cases, with 2.6 million, and over 92,000 deaths.