Mexico registered 294,287 deaths associated with COVID-19 up to mid-February, new government data showed, much higher than the country's official coronavirus fatality toll.
The figure, given in a report on excess deaths released on Sunday, is 69 percent more than the 173,771 deaths announced by the health ministry at the time for the same period through February 13.
The ministry's number is based on test-confirmed cases, while the new figure is based on death certificates and includes people who died at home.
Since February 13, the ministry has announced more than 27,000 additional COVID-19 deaths, implying that the total number of coronavirus-linked fatalities is now far in excess of 300,000.
The health ministry's latest official toll stood at 201,623 on Sunday—the third highest in the world, behind Brazil at more than 312,000 and the United States at around 549,000 fatalities.
Testing in Mexico remains very limited, and government officials have previously acknowledged the real toll is likely higher.
Many COVID-19 patients in the country of 126 million are believed to have died at home and not been officially counted.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's administration has repeatedly come under fire for its handling of the pandemic.
The left-wing populist, who announced in February that he had recovered from a COVID-19 infection, has worn a mask only on rare occasions and kept up his cross-country tours during the pandemic.
He was accused of downplaying the risks of the virus early on and of being slow to impose a lockdown, but he continues to enjoy high approval ratings.
His administration has also previously been accused of undercounting fatal COVID-19 cases.
National statistics institute INEGI reported in January that Mexico had registered 68 percent more coronavirus deaths up to the end of August 2020 than reported at the time by the health ministry.
According to the government's new report, the country's total excess deaths during the pandemic reached 417,002 by the sixth week of 2021.
The health ministry has reported a decline in daily deaths and cases in recent weeks after a surge in January, but there are fears of another wave of infections after the Easter holidays.
© 2021 AFP