Peru more than doubles Covid death toll after review

Peru has more than doubled its Covid death toll following a review, making it the country with the world’s highest death rate per capita, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

The official death toll is now more than 180,000, up from 69,342, in a country of about 33 million people.

Prime Minister Violeta Bermudez said the number was increased on the advice of Peruvian and international experts.

This was in line with so-called excess deaths figures.

Excess deaths are a measure of how many more people are dying than would be expected based on the previous few years.

“We think it is our duty to make public this updated information,” Ms Bermudez said.

The news, released on Monday, came just six days before Peru is set to hold a presidential run-off election between leftist Pedro Castillo and right-wing candidate Keiko Fujimori.

Peru has been one of the worst-hit countries in Latin America, resulting in an overstretched healthcare system and a lack of oxygen tanks. It has registered 1.9 million infections in total.

Some of the reasons for it being so badly hit include an absence of fridges in people’s homes – forcing many households to make frequent trips to markets to shop for food rather than stocking up – and overcrowding in homes and public places.

The president of the Peruvian Medical Federation, Godofredo Talavera, said the increased toll was not a surprise.

“We believe this occurs because our health system does not have the necessary conditions to care for patients.

“There has been no government support with oxygen, with intensive care beds. We do not have enough vaccines at the moment. The first line of care has not been reactivated. All this makes us the first country in the world in mortality,” he said.

But experts say Peru has also had problems with its testing regime, as it lacks the resources to carry out widespread molecular tests, the most reliable type.

In the early days of the pandemic, Peru bought millions of cheap tests from China, most of which were designed to detect virus antibodies, not active cases, the Associated Press reported.

Some of these tests have been found by independent analysis to be sub-standard, the agency said.

The criteria for recording Covid deaths has now been broadened beyond people who tested positive for the virus to include “probable” cases – those with “an epidemiological link to a confirmed case” or who present “a clinical picture compatible with the disease”.