Mexico overtook Britain on Friday as the country with the third highest number of coronavirus deaths, as the pandemic reaches new milestones in Latin America and threatens to disrupt efforts to reopen the struggling economies of the region.
The record places Mexico behind Brazil, the largest and most populous country in Latin America, and the United States. More than 91,000 people have died in Brazil and the death toll in the United States has exceeded 152,000.
Mexico recorded 688 deaths on Friday to bring its toll to 46,688, with 424,637 confirmed cases.
The UK has recorded 46,204 deaths and 304,793 cases, according to a count from Johns Hopkins University.
Mexican officials say the pandemic is likely to be much larger than official figures reflect.
Rising tolls cemented Latin America’s status as one of the epicenters of the virus. Cases in the region have doubled in the past month to more than 4.7 million infections.
Colombia, where lockdowns are scheduled until the end of August, surpassed the 10,000 dead mark on Friday, totaling 10,105 dead. The Andean country is expected to reach 300,000 cases in total over the weekend.
While the UK appears to have put the brakes on the virus, the pandemic shows few signs of slowing down in Mexico, which has been trying to restart the economy since late May.
“We are opening when we are not yet ready to open,” said Rosa Maria del Angel, head of infectomics and molecular pathogenesis at the National Polytechnic Institute of Mexico.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who angered some health advocates by refusing to wear a mask in public, said Friday that Mexico plans to continue Independence Day celebrations in the huge Zocalo plaza in the capital.
The September 16 ceremony that celebrates a historic call to revolt known as “El Grito” would be “socially left behind,” Lopez Obrador said in his daily morning press conference.
“In the face of adversity, epidemics, floods, earthquakes, bad governments, we always go out” to celebrate, he said. “Now we’re going to keep going out.”
Lopez Obrador berated news agencies for reporting Mexico’s rise in the ranks of the global death toll, saying the per capita toll was a fairer representation.
Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said on Friday the capital would remain on the second highest phase of alert for the reopening of economic and social activities, after warning last week of a possible increase in cases by October.
The city could still revert to tougher measures, she told reporters. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.”