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Mexican officials said yesterday that many of the over 120,000 excess deaths Mexico suffered so far during the pandemic may have been indirectly caused by the coronavirus, even if those people didn’t die of Covid-19.

A “very significant part” of those deaths were people who were suffering heart problems but were too afraid to go the hospital for fear of getting infected, said Dr. Ruy López Ridaura, the country’s director of disease prevention and control.

“Clearly, even those cases that aren’t directly associated with (coronavirus) infection … in some way are associated with the pandemic, right, because they were associated with the burden on hospitals, the fear that people had,” López Ridaura said.

“It is not unreasonable to think that a very significant part is due to people not seeking medical attention,” he said. “They were in a certain way afraid to go to a system that was caring for a lot of Covid patients, for fear of getting infected.”

The knock-on effect of Covid restrictions on patients with other pre-existing conditions or medical emergencies has frequently been cited as a concern by those opposed to strict lockdown measures.

The Associated Press report that the number of deaths from heart disease and diabetes in Mexico skyrocketed during 2020. For example, deaths from cardiac ailments increased 36% last year, as compared to 2019, and deaths from complications of diabetes were up 46%.

Diabetes has long been a the leading cause of death in Mexico according to the World Health Organization. An assessment from 2017 found that the disease claims nearly 80,000 lives each year, and forecasters expected the health problem to get worse in the decades to come.

Fear may not have been the only factor, though. Many hospitals in Mexico have been overwhelmed at times during the pandemic, and simply did not have room for non-Covid patients, or treatment may have been delayed because ambulances were tied up during the pandemic, or because some hospitals would not treat emergency patients until they had been tested for the coronavirus.

Not including the indirect deaths, officials list 322,263 deaths directly caused by Covid. While case numbers have been declining, Mexico recorded 807 test-confirmed deaths Tuesday, a relatively high number compared to recent weeks.

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