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Peru almost TRIPLES its Covid-19 death toll after revising counting method a week before key election

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Peru has significantly revised its official record of deaths caused by Covid-19, increasing the number almost threefold. The change was made after a review proposed new criteria for linking deaths to the virus.

The Latin American nation of 33 million has made a painful reckoning with the damage done by the pandemic. Its government revealed it has updated the Covid-19 death toll to 180,764 – a sharp rise from the previous figure of 69,342. The news was announced by Prime Minister Violeta Bermudez during a media conference on Monday.

The update came after an expert panel advised the government on how to better link fatalities in Peru with the raging epidemic. Previously, only patients with a confirmed infection were included in the lists. The new figure is closer to what’s referred to as ‘excess deaths’ – a metric used by researchers to estimate potential undercounting of deaths based on statistics from previous years. The new record of fatalities covers the period between March 2020 and May 22 this year.

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Last month, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Covid-19 deaths were likely underestimated globally and that some 6-8 million people may have actually been killed by the disease, compared to the official figure of more than 3.4 million.

Peru is one of the nations hit hardest by the epidemic. The infection overwhelmed its healthcare system, which didn’t have the reserves to mitigate the impact. The government also could afford neither a testing program on the same scale as more wealthy nations could deploy to keep track of the infection spread nor to swiftly buy and roll out vaccines.

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The new death toll is the third-highest in Latin America after Brazil and Mexico, which are significantly more populous than Peru. They have more than 210 million and 130 million residents respectively. Peru now has the world’s worst number of fatalities per capita, well over 500 per 100,000 people.

The Johns Hopkins dashboard, which is yet to update the Peru death toll, lists Hungary as the worst in this metric, with 304.33 deaths per 100,000 residents.

The damage caused by Covid-19 has fueled political turmoil already gripping Peru. President Martin Vizcarra was impeached and removed from office by the parliament in November on the grounds of “moral incapacity” to lead the country.

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This Sunday, Peru is holding the second round of general elections to determine the next head of the state. Left-wing union leader Pedro Castillo and conservative businesswoman Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of former leader Alberto Fujimori, who is doing prison time for corruption, compete for the office.

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