New data in Peru show COVID-19 death toll is over 180,000

FILE - In this March 20, 2021 file photo, a worker digs a grave in the San Juan Bautista cemetery in Iquitos, Peru, amid the new coronavirus pandemic. On May 31, 2021, Peru announced a sharp increase in its COVID-19 death toll, saying there have been more than 180,000 fatalities since the pandemic hit the country early last year. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd, File)
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LIMA, Peru (AP) — Peru on Monday announced a sharp increase in its COVID-19 death toll, saying there have been more than 180,000 fatalities since the pandemic hit the country early last year.

The announcement was made in the presidential palace 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 toll at 180,764 in a population of about 32.6 million, compared to recent data indicating that 69,342 people had died from COVID-19.

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

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

The new toll from COVID-19 includes 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.

On Monday, the coronavirus monitoring site of Johns Hopkins University was reflecting the previous figure of just under 70,000 deaths in Peru.

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 the situation was far worse than the official data showed.