Peru surges to highest COVID death toll per capita following government review

Peru more than doubled its official coronavirus death toll following a government-ordered review, making it the nation with the worst death rate per capita, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Officials on Monday, citing a report combining deaths from multiple databases and reclassified fatalities, announced that 180,764 of its population of about 33 million people have died from COVID-19 since the end of May. The figure is a drastic increase from the previous count of 69,342.

“We think it is our duty to make public this updated information,” Peru Prime Minister Violeta Bermudez told reporters during a press conference.

The near tripling of coronavirus deaths means Peru, one of the hardest hit countries in Latin America, has more deaths relative to its population than Hungary, where about 300 people out for every 100,000 have succumbed to coronavirus.

In Peru, that number stands at around 500 COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 people, according to Johns Hopkin’s University data.

Even prior to the count’s increase, Peru already boasted the ninth highest death per capita in the world. Experts have also long warned the official toll would likely surge dramatically upon review.

Health officials said the massive gap in figures was in part caused by a lack of tests, which made it difficult for doctors to confirm whether a patient was killed by coronavirus or something else entirely, Reuters reported.

The updated numbers are also in line with so-called excess death figures, which researchers have used in Peru and other countries to keep track of potential undercounting amid the pandemic.

The Centers for Disease Control define excess deaths “as the difference between the observed numbers of deaths in specific time periods and expected numbers of deaths in the same time periods.”