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In stunning increase, Peru now says its COVID-19 death toll exceeds 180,000

Freshly dug graves in cemetery in Peru
A worker digs a grave in the San Juan Bautista cemetery in Iquitos, Peru, in March.
(Rodrigo Abd / Associated Press)

In a stunning increase, Peru has announced a newly calculated COVID-19 death toll of more than 180,000, far more than double the country’s previous official count.

The announcement Monday was made in the presidential palace in Lima during the presentation of a report by a working group commissioned to analyze and update the death toll. The results of the study put the new tally at 180,764 out of a population of about 32.6 million, compared to recent data indicating that 69,342 people had died from COVID-19.

“A significant number of deaths were not classified as caused by COVID-19,” Health Minister Oscar Ugarte said, adding that the criteria for assigning COVID-19 as a cause of death were changed.

Ugarte said that previously only those who “had a positive diagnostic test” were considered to have died as a result of the coronavirus, but other criteria have since been incorporated.

Seizing on COVID-19 to expand its global influence, China has emerged as a major player in the vaccine sweepstakes — particularly in Latin America.

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The new COVID-19 toll comprises deaths reported between March 2020 and May 22 of this year. Among Latin American countries, only Brazil and Mexico have reported higher death tolls from the disease.

Questions about Peru’s death toll surfaced soon after the beginning of the pandemic. Scenes of cemeteries filling up with new burials and and hospitals buying refrigerated containers to act as makeshift morgues suggested that the situation was far worse than the official data showed.


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