We will probably never know how many people have died in Peru since the beginning of March when the first signs of Covid-19 made themselves felt. And, as we have repeatedly intimated, the official figures are probably a gross understatement of the scale of fatalities.
As in many other countries, in Peru people are looking increasingly critically at the official death tolls which only include cases where the cause of death is specifically stated to be the coronavirus. In many cases, the exact cause of death may be officially described as something other than the virus, although it may have been the precipitating factor.
Increasing attention is being focused on comparing all deaths within a specific period with the average in recent years. The Financial Times this last week published indicative figures for a range of 19 affected countries, including Peru. In the case of Peru, so far this year, 9,500 more people died in the period up to 12 May, 81% more than the previous year; at 5,800 just in Lima, it is 231% higher. Unlike many other cases, there was no sign of a downturn in mortality rates in the last couple of weeks in the FT figures. For its part, the New York Times asserts that 6,200 people died in April alone, more than double the historic average for the month.
As of Thursday 21 May, the total number of deaths from the virus, as identified by the health ministry, stood at 3,148. In terms of the number of cases officially identified, Peru has 108,769, second only to Brazil with 275,382. In third place is Chile (53,617) and fourth Ecuador (34,854). Six days previously, the number of cases stood at 84,495 and deaths at 2,392.
Despite hopes to the contrary, there is no sign in the official data of the impact of the virus levelling off.