MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico overtook the United States in daily reported deaths from the novel coronavirus for the first time on Wednesday, with the health ministry registering a record 1,092 fatalities it attributed to improved documenting of the pandemic.
Latin American has emerged in recent weeks as a major center for coronavirus. Brazil, where the virus has hit hardest in the region, also reported a record number of deaths on Wednesday.
The Mexican government had previously predicted the pandemic would peak in early May and under U.S. pressure has begun reopening its vast auto industry, which underpins billions of dollars of business through cross-border supply chains.
However, plans to further relax social distancing measures this week were put on hold in recognition of the fact that infections had not yet begun coming down.
Wednesday saw a record 3,912 new infections, with the number of daily deaths more than twice the previous record of 501.
The total number of known cases in Latin America’s second-largest economy is now 101,238 and its tally of deaths is 11,729, making it the seventh country with most deaths from the virus, according to the John Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell attributed the sharp jump in numbers to a new mortality committee established by the Mexico City government to better identify which deaths in the capital were caused by the virus.
“Over the past 20 or 25 days, we have had various cases that were slowly passed on to the registry, for various reasons,” he said. “A technical committee has specifically been carrying out complementary methods.”
The committee was established after growing criticism that Mexico’s very limited testing rate meant most cases and deaths from COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, were not being registered. A Reuters investigation concluded that fatalities could be 2.5 times higher than reported.
Mexico’s government has previously admitted the real number of fatalities was higher than the official count.
It was not clear if the inclusion of more deaths registered by the Mexico City committee would push daily numbers higher in future.
Mexico, with just over a third of the population of the United States, is at an earlier stage of the pandemic curve than its neighbor and the government has acknowledged that deaths could eventually surpass 30,000.
U.S. daily reported deaths were 1,045 on Wednesday, government data showed.
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