Mexico’s confirmed coronavirus death toll surpassed India’s on Thursday to become the world’s third-highest, after months in which President Andrés Manuel López Obrador had downplayed the coronavirus as his government scrambled to control it.
As of Friday morning, Mexico had recorded 155,145 coronavirus deaths during the pandemic, 1,135 more than India, according to a New York Times database. It recorded 1,506 deaths on Thursday alone, about 300 short of a daily record from earlier this month.
Mexico has reported more than 1.8 million cases, and its caseload has been surging since early December. The daily average number of new infections over the past week — 16,319 — was the seventh-highest in the world, just behind France.
Hospitals nationwide, particularly in Mexico City, are straining to accommodate Covid-19 patients and provide enough ventilators for them. People have been lining up to refill tanks of oxygen for relatives who are gasping for air in their homes.
The disease’s true impact on Mexico is probably far worse than the official figures indicate.
Testing levels are low, for one thing, and many infected people choose to stay home because they distrust hospitals. A New York Times investigation found in May that the government was not reporting hundreds, possibly thousands, of coronavirus deaths in Mexico City.
When President López Obrador said this week that he, too, had the virus, few Mexicans were surprised. He had spent months minimizing the pandemic — by claiming that religious amulets protected him, for example, or refusing to wear a mask.
He has worked through his illness, saying on Monday that he had spoken with President Vladimir Putin of Russia. Mexico’s top epidemiologist, Hugo López-Gatell, told reporters on Thursday that Mr. López Obrador was experiencing minimal symptoms.
Some people in Mexico worry that Mr. López Obrador will go back to minimizing the danger of the coronavirus after he recovers with help from top-notch medical treatment, just as former President Donald J. Trump did after beating a Covid-19 infection in October.
In Mexico City this week, Lilia Ramírez Díaz was making the second trip of the day to refill an oxygen tank for her diabetic father. He was battling Covid-19 at home.
Both Mr. López Obrador and her father contracted the virus, she said in an interview. But the president, she added, “doesn’t have to go around looking and begging for an oxygen tank.”