As the numbers of those suffering from Covid-19 continue to build up and the death toll increases, the government on 4 June extended the current health emergency for another 90 days (until 7 September). This provides the authorities with special powers to take measures that help deal with contagion and acquire the necessary goods and services. The health emergency regulations are not the same as those of the ‘state of emergency’. Extended already five times, the state of emergency will now run to the end of June.
Meanwhile, on the same day, 4 June, the government published what it called ‘Phase Two’ of the restarting of economic activity, covering a multiplicity of sectors, including mining, manufacturing, construction and services. Companies and enterprises, mostly smaller-scale, will be authorised to reinitiate activities subject only to announcing plans to observe protocols about measures to prevent further contagion. Public works projects are also to get under way, while inter-provincial transport will be resumed. According to the Ministry of Production, Phase Two will involve 780,000 businesses, the great majority SMEs.
As many observers have pointed out, Peru runs the risk of further accelerating the spread of Covid-19 by prematurely opening up for business. Phase Two does not include some areas in the north of the country and parts of the Amazon region judged to be particularly prone to contagion.
According to the official figures, last week the numbers dying from Covid-19 passed the 5,000 mark. As of Friday 5 June, they stood at 5,162, second only to Brazil in South America. This compares with 3,373 recorded two weeks earlier. The total number of registered cases was 187,400, up from 115,754 on 22 May.
That the number of officially registered fatalities from Covid-19 may seriously understate the real death toll should come as no surprise. Two weeks ago, we cited a study conducted and published in the Financial Times that compared numbers dying in March and April with averages for previous years which suggested the scale of the mismatch with official figures.
Now, working on the same hypothesis, a group from the Instituto de Estudios Políticos Andinos (IPEA) at San Marcos University in Lima has published data suggesting that the death toll (just in Lima) could be far more than the official figure.
The under-registration of deaths from Covid-19 could result from not counting those who died from a pre-existing health problem made lethal by the virus, those who have died simply because of inability to access a health system in a state of virtual collapse, the many cases of people afraid to go to hospital for fear of contagion, and those who simply lacked the money being charged for medical attention (see PSG article).
The IPEA researchers limited themselves to looking at deaths in Lima because the registry of deaths there, the Sistema Informático Nacional de Defunciones, is far more robust than in other parts of the country, especially rural areas.
The study calculates that the under-registered amount to as many as 8,300 people are among the under-registered. Of these 1,900 may have died for reasons unrelated to Covid-19, leaving 6,276 who died but whose death went unreported in the official figures. The FT put the figure at 8,200.